DRC fighting thwarts plans to export conflict-free minerals

Renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo will halt the export of so-called conflict-free minerals from the country's eastern provinces, according to Bloomberg:

“We were hoping to start exporting from green-lighted sites in Masisi, mostly coltan, but unfortunately the trouble we’re seeing is in Masisi,” Emmanuel Ndimubanzi, the head of North Kivu province’s Division of Mines, said in an interview in Goma, the provincial capital, on April 28. “It won’t work.”

The Congolese government in March allowed  the sales of minerals from 11 tin and coltan mines in the North Kivu territory where the army is battling an insurrection.

The World Gold Council in March unveiled the long-awaited “exposure draft” of the so-called conflict-free gold standard, which aims to crack down on gold tainted by conflict and human rights violations, such as the ongoing supply coming from rebel forces in the DRC.

The framework is intended to ensure that gold produced under its guidelines neither fuels armed conflict, nor funds armed groups, nor contributes to human rights abuses associated with armed conflicts.

Tainted gold is a significant problem in many countries, such as the well-know case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where gold and other minerals have been funding one of the deadliest wars since World War II.

Close to 6 million people have died in what is the widest interstate conflict in modern African history and, so far, the government’s efforts to halt illegal gold mining have been in vain.

In most of the reports compiled by the United Nations, it has been noted that the illegal trade in Congolese minerals is one of the biggest sources of income for rebel groups.

Last year the UN said that Congo’s gold trade is worth about US$160 million a year and that 80% of it is smuggled out of the country, often through Kenya and Tanzania.