At a critical time for the region's minerals trade companies must undertake supply chain checks and put responsible sourcing into practise
Global Witness' investigation last month in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) revealed high-level military involvement in the region's minerals trade. A briefing published today outlines findings from research carried out in DRC's North and South Kivu provinces, Burundi and Rwanda in March and April 2013.
The key findings are:
- Tonnes of gold produced in eastern Congo benefit rebels and high-ranking members of the Congolese and Burundian state armies. The gold is laundered through Burundi's domestic gold sector and exported to Dubai.
- Neither local buyers in the Great Lakes region nor international traders conduct adequate checks on the gold they purchase to ensure that it has not funded conflict or human rights abuses in eastern Congo.
- Efforts to establish conflict-free supply chains in the tin and tantalum trade are progressing. The first international project attempting to source conflict-free tin from a conflict area in eastern Congo was launched in October 2012.
- Much of the tin, tantalum and tungsten produced in North and South Kivu benefits rebels and members of the state army. The minerals are smuggled out of Congo into Rwanda and Burundi for export. Tin and tantalum smuggled into Rwanda is laundered through the country's domestic tagging system and exported as 'clean' Rwandan material.
Eastern Congo's lucrative trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold has been controlled by abusive armed groups and factions of the national army for almost fifteen years. These groups use the profits generated from the minerals trade to fund their fight. The local population in North and South Kivu have borne the brunt of a prolonged conflict characterised by murder, pillage, mass rape and displacement.
This is a critical time for eastern Congo's minerals trade. Companies covered by Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act, a US law that seeks to prevent the region's minerals trade from funding conflict, are in their first reporting year and must publish details of their efforts to check their supply chains by May 2014. In March 2013 the European Union launched a public consultation on conflict minerals that could result in the introduction of a European due diligence regulation. The International Conference on the Great Lakes region, a grouping of regional member states, is preparing to launch its regional mineral certification scheme, which requires trading companies in the region to meet OECD due diligence standards as a condition for having their minerals certified. Companies buying minerals from eastern DRC must respond to these measures and put responsible sourcing into practice.