“Conflict-free” mining in Eastern Congo

Congo
Africa, DR Congo, South Kivu. Mineral-Trade in eastern Congo has been singled out as a source of finance for armed conflict. An initiative made up of the industry, NGOs, international and national government organisations, has launched a pilot project, that is set to break up that link. The Dutch social enterprise „Fairphone“ wants to use the tin in its first telephone from there, Motorola and other big players in the industry are also taking part.

Mineral-Trade in eastern Congo has been singled out as a source of finance for armed conflict. An initiative made up of the industry, NGOs, international and national government organisations, has launched a pilot project, that is set to break up that link.

The Dutch social enterprise „Fairphone“ wants to use the tin in its first telephone from there, Motorola and other big players in the industry are also taking part. While the main objective is to guarantee that the tin-ore is produced „conflict-free“, working conditions remain an issue.

Under the Conflict Free Tin Initiative over 200 tones of tin ore worth around $1.7 million have already been sold to the Malaysia Smelting Corporation from the Kalimbi Mine in South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The CFTI ensures that each mined ore receives a plastic tag with a bar core that corresponds to a certification document, so that the minerals extracted from it can be exported legally. A multi-stakeholder team, which included representatives of the DRC Government, the United Nations, the German Geological Service (BGR), the local project manager of the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi), representatives of local business and civil society, validated Kalimbi as a conflict-free mine. The Congolese government is seeking to similarly tag other mines in the upcoming months. As a result of the crackdown brought by the Dodd Frank Act, local prices collapsed by a factor of 6 to less than $1 a kilogram, while the only remaining buyers were Chinese exporters and smugglers.

Eastern Congo has been affected by violence since the 1990s. One of the key reasons for the ungoing conflict is the fact that region is extremely valuable from an economic standpoint, due to its oil reserves, gold, tin, coltan and cassiterite – metals used to make mobile phones, for which both Rwanda and Uganda have fought in the past.

About the author:
Toby Binder was born in 1977. His work focuses on social documentaries in Africa and South America. He has been published by Amnesty Journal, Foreign Policy, Greenpeace-Magazin, der Spiegel, Stern, UNICEF & die Zeit and others.

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