066_Global12_InFocus_DRC_V8

Global issue 12

In FocusThe Democratic Republic of Congo The true cost of gold The illegal export of minerals and metals from the Democratic Republic of Congo has helped fuel the ongoing war in the east of the country. The implementation of international and domestic initiatives aimed at restricting the sale and use of ‘conflict minerals’ is forcing multinational companies to clean up their supply chains Humphrey Hawksley Each year, an estimated $1 billion worth of bal experiment on how to end the cycle of ting information from the government and gold is extracted from a remote and con- violence and poverty in certain areas of the the private sector in Dubai, where much of flict-ridden part of Africa and sold on the developing world. the gold is processed. In all, eastern Congo international black market. Gold has a high A lengthy UN investigation into conflict generates billions of dollars of wealth every value and is easy to melt down and hide, minerals has now established a link between year, while the region remains one of the so where it ends up is anyone’s guess. It killing and exploitation in developing coun- poorest and most unstable places in the is also a resilient conductor of electricity, tries that leads directly to appliances in our world. so one of its destinations is as part of mo- homes. The issue is not confined to eastern If we also take into account the use of bile phones, computers and other everyday Congo, but this is a region that could provide child labour, poor safety conditions and gadgets. That place is the eastern region of a laboratory for positive change. The UN has low incomes, the emerging picture verifies the Democratic Republic of Congo, and reported details of illegal trading routes from the long-standing allegations of Western the revenue from these illicit gold sales eastern Congo to destinations outside Africa. economies exploiting poor communities in helps fund rival militias who have waged The networks are made up of businessmen the developing world. The price of gold has wars that have killed an estimated 6 million and military figures who exploit high levels gone up five times over the past ten years, people during the past 15 years. Together of corruption and use false documentation. whereas the miners’ wages have gone down. with other ‘conflict minerals’ (and metals) For example, only 15 percent of the gold “The government doesn’t care about us such as tin, tantalum and coltan, the illegal passing through Uganda is properly docu- and there is no other way of living,” ex- trade in gold has become the focus of a glo- mented, and the UN has had difficulty get- plains Vincent Djuma Bigirinama, the min- Credit: Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project The introduction of new international legislation could help improve working conditions and wages for Congo’s miners 66 lwww.global-briefing.org fourth quarter 2012global


Global issue 12
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