UN special forces sent to Congo’s mining hub

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo began Thursday to deploy special forces in Katanga province, in an effort to curb rebels attacks and threats to the country’s copper mining hub.

This is the first time the U.N. mission in the country — known as Monusco — has sent troops to Katanga since the start of insurgency early this year. They will support the peacekeeping forces already in the province.

Separatist groups have been targeting Katanga since March, leaving at least 35 dead and forcing the government to impose a nighttime curfew, after what it was considered the largest and most violent attack in the area in over a decade.

Monusco has repeatedly warned that security in the copper-rich region has become a “very serious concern,” adding that it should be tackled not only militarily, but also politically.

Earlier this month the U.N. went on to saying that at least 53 children were at risk of being re-recruited by the M23 rebel group in Nyiragongo Territory, North Kivu Province, and that the same was believed to be happening in the rest of the country.

Major miners, such as commodities trader Glencore Xstrata (LON:GLEN) and Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX), have operations in the copper and cobalt-rich area, which is expected to produce around 800,000 metric tons of copper this year. This would make Congo one of Africa’s largest copper producers, after Zambia.

Image by VICE, via YouTube