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Congo (Kinshasa): Militarization of Mining Well-Entrenched

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 22, 2009 (091222)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The illicit exploitation of natural resources is not a new phenomenon in eastern DRC. It has characterised the conflict since it first erupted in 1996 and has been well documented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations Panel of Experts and Group of Experts, journalists and others. Twelve years on, the patterns remain the same, and despite abundant evidence of these activities, no effective action has been taken to stop this murderous trade." - Global Witness

Thus Global Witness in its latest report reiterates similar conclusions by the UN's Group of Experts and other commentators, as well as outlining proposed measures to address these issues.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains an executive summary of this Global Witness report released in early December. While the report concentrates on the role of the Hutu rebel group Forces d‚mocratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), and the Congolese national army, another report from Global Witness, available at (direct link:, documents the history of involvement of multiple other parties, including the governments of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zimbabwe, and groups supported by them.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out today by e-mail, contains several UN press releases, related to the report from the UN Group of Experts on sanctions, and to human rights abuses by all parties in the most recent fighting in the eastern Congo. See

Note that Global Witness and other groups propose measures to monitor and block minerals sales going to armed groups, Global Witness does not endorse general sanctions against exports of minerals, that would also harm small-scale miners. See the critique of a more simplistic approach to such matters as instanced by a recent 60 Minutes program: Three Problems with the 60 Minutes Story on "Congo Gold," at (direct link:

The Conflict Minerals Act introduced in the U.S. Congress does not call for a boycott of minerals from Congo, but rather a more targeted approach including monitoring and identification of suspect trade networks. See and

For documentation on the mineral's supply chain, see the Enough Project's From Mine to Mobile Phone

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletin's on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

"Faced with a gun, what can you do?" - War and the militarization of mining in the Eastern Congo

Global Witness

December 7, 2009


"We are their meat, their animals. We have nothing to say." - Miner from Shabunda (South Kivu), 28 July 2008

Note: The term "warring parties" is used throughout this report to denote the range of armed groups operating in eastern DRC, as well as the Congolese army

The militarisation of mining in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is prolonging the armed conflict which has been tearing the country apart for more than 12 years. In many parts of the provinces of North and South Kivu, armed groups and the Congolese national army control the trade in cassiterite (tin ore), gold, columbite-tantalite (coltan), wolframite (a source of tungsten) and other minerals. The unregulated nature of the mining sector in eastern DRC, combined with the breakdown of law and order and the devastation caused by the war, has meant that these groups have had unrestricted access to these minerals and have been able to establish lucrative trading networks. The profits they make through this plunder enable some of the most violent armed groups to survive.

In their broader struggle to seize economic, political and military power, all the main warring parties have carried out the most horrific human rights abuses, including widespread killings of unarmed civilians, rape, torture and looting, recruitment of child soldiers to fight in their ranks, and forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. The lure of eastern Congo's mineral riches is one of the factors spurring them on. By the time these minerals reach their ultimate destinations - the international markets in Europe, Asia, North America and elsewhere - their origin, and the suffering caused by this trade, has long been forgotten.

The illicit exploitation of natural resources is not a new phenomenon in eastern DRC. It has characterised the conflict since it first erupted in 1996 and has been well documented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations Panel of Experts and Group of Experts, journalists and others. Twelve years on, the patterns remain the same, and despite abundant evidence of these activities, no effective action has been taken to stop this murderous trade. On the contrary, the warring parties have consolidated their economic bases and have become ever more entrenched.

Overview of findings

This report documents the militarisation of mining in the conflict-affected areas of eastern DRC. Its findings and conclusions, summarised below, are based primarily on Global Witness field research in North and South Kivu in 2008, and in Rwanda and Burundi in 2009.

  • All the main warring parties are heavily involved in the mineral trade in North and South Kivu. This practice is not limited to rebel groups. Soldiers from the Congolese national army, and their commanders, are also deeply involved in mining in both provinces.
  • In the course of plundering these minerals, rebel groups and the Congolese army have used forced labour (often in extremely harsh and dangerous conditions), carried out systematic extortion and imposed illegal "taxes" on the civilian population. They have also used violence and intimidation against civilians who attempt to resist working for them or handing over the minerals they produce.
  • The most detailed information obtained by Global Witness relates to the Forces d‚mocratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), the predominantly Rwandan Hutu armed group, some of whose leaders are alleged to have participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the Forces arm‚es de la R‚publique d‚mocratique du Congo (FARDC), the Congolese national army. The involvement of these two groups in the mineral trade is extensive and well-organised.


  • The FDLR has a stranglehold on the mineral trade in large parts of South Kivu. In some areas, their economic activities have become so successful that they appear to have become an end in themselves. Local residents describe them as the "big businessmen".
  • The FDLR sometimes trade openly, selling minerals in markets and towns; on other occasions, they use Congolese civilians as intermediaries.
  • The FDLR systematically extort minerals and money from miners, charging a flat fee of 30% on mining proceeds in some areas and "taxing" minerals at roadblocks.


  • The most blatant example of FARDC involvement in mining is Bisie, the largest cassiterite mine in the region, which accounts for around 80% of cassiterite exports from North Kivu. From 2006 to March 2009, Bisie mine was entirely under the control of an army brigade. In 2007 and the first part of 2008, the FARDC based at Bisie were collecting at least US $120,000 a month by taking a commission of US $0.15 on every kilogramme of cassiterite.
  • In some mines, a system has been set up in which particular days of the week are allocated for civilian miners to work for individual soldiers or their commanders. Soldiers also demand 10% of minerals, as well as cash, at numerous military checkpoints along the roads.
  • Senior officers in the provincial command of the 8th and 10th military regions of the FARDC have been profiting from this trade.
  • Individual commanders or military units "own" particular mineshafts. In Mukungwe, in South Kivu, a mineshaft has been nicknamed "10th military region".

FARDC/FDLR collaboration

  • The FARDC and the FDLR supposedly battlefield enemies often act in collaboration, carving up territory and mining areas through mutual agreement and sometimes sharing the spoils. The FDLR use roads controlled by the FARDC, and vice versa, without difficulty. Minerals produced by the FDLR are sent out through local airports controlled by the FARDC in South Kivu.

Other armed groups

  • The Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), and various other armed groups such as the mai-mai, have also profited from the mineral trade, particularly through their own systems of "taxation".


  • Provincial government officials struggle to control mineral exports across the DRC's eastern borders. Official declarations and state revenues from exports of cassiterite and coltan have increased since 2007, but almost all the gold in North and South Kivu is still smuggled out. A Congolese government official told Global Witness that at least 90% of gold exports were undeclared.

Rwanda and Burundi as transit countries

  • The majority of the minerals produced in North and South Kivu leave the DRC through Rwanda or Burundi. The governments of these countries have effectively provided the warring parties in eastern DRC with access to export routes and international markets. They have failed to acknowledge the fact that these minerals are fuelling the conflict in eastern DRC and have not held to account companies in their country which engage in this trade.

The comptoirs

  • Several of the main comptoirs trading houses based in Goma and Bukavu buy, sell and export minerals produced by or benefiting the warring parties. They include Groupe Olive, Muyeye, MDM, Panju and others.
  • The fact that these comptoirs are officially licensed and registered with the Congolese government acts as a cover for laundering minerals which are fuelling the conflict.

Foreign companies

  • These comptoirs' customers include European and Asian companies, such as the Thailand Smelting and Refining Corporation (THA ISARCO), the world's fifth-largest tin-producing company, owned by British metals giant Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC); British company Afrimex; and several Belgian companies such as Trademet and Traxys. These companies sell the minerals on to a range of processing and manufacturing companies, including firms in the electronics industry.
  • Economic actors are turning a blind eye to the impact of their trade. They continue to plead ignorance as to the origin of their supplies and hide behind a multitude of other excuses for failing to implement practices which would exclude from their supply chain minerals which are fuelling the armed conflict.
  • Foreign companies use the "legal" status of their suppliers as justification for continuing to trade with them, without verifying the exact origin of the minerals or the identity of intermediaries. In reality, some of these "legal" suppliers are among the main facilitators of the illicit trade with armed groups and army units.
  • Some companies have claimed that the well-being of the Congolese population in mining areas is dependent on these companies' continued involvement in the trade. Such arguments ignore the serious human rights abuses perpetrated against artisanal miners and other civilians by the warring parties who exploit these minerals and with whom these companies are prepared to continue trading.
  • Correspondence between some of these companies and Global Witness has revealed that despite paying lip-service to "ethical" principles, trading companies have no effective monitoring system in place to check their supply chain or assess the human rights impact of their trade.
  • Correspondence from some of the major electronics companies has shown a greater recognition of the need for due diligence but also a lack of a sense of urgency and limited commitment to applying checks throughout the entire supply chain.

Foreign governments

  • International dialogue and peace talks have not tackled the economic dimension of the conflict. Global Witness believes that political agreements which do not address the exploitation of natural resources as one of the main drivers of the conflict are unlikely to lead to lasting peace.
  • Home governments have failed to show moral leadership in holding to account companies based in their countries that engage in trade which benefits the warring parties and leads to human rights abuses. They have fallen back on voluntary codes of conduct and other non-binding guidelines, resisting calls for stronger action to control the corporate sector.
  • Most donor governments have chosen to concentrate on technical solutions instead of addressing the fundamental causes of the conflict. Not only has this allowed the warring parties, and the companies which do business with them, to continue benefiting from the mineral trade with impunity, but it has further delayed the implementation of measures which would deprive the warring parties of one of their principal sources of finance.
  • The inadequacy of the international response to the economic dimension of the conflict is obstructing development efforts. The conflict in eastern DRC continues to cause deaths, displacement, trauma and destruction of livelihoods on a massive scale all of which impede development. Donor governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the DRC, but this assistance is undermined by their failure to address one of the fundamental aspects of the conflict: the warring parties' access to natural resources.

The findings presented in this report are based on Global Witness interviews with a wide range of eyewitnesses and other sources in North and South Kivu in July and August 2008, including miners, individual traders and trading companies, mining companies, government and military officials, members of armed groups, journalists, members of Congolese NGOs, UN staff and foreign diplomats. Global Witness has protected the identity of many interviewees in this report for their own security. Global Witness carried out further research in Rwanda and Burundi in March 2009. Additional information was obtained through correspondence with companies and other sources in late 2008 and early 2009.

Action to break the links between the mineral trade and armed conflict

This report sets out detailed recommendations for governments, individuals, organisations and companies inside and outside the DRC who have the power the break the links between the mineral trade and the conflict. Foremost among these recommendations are:

  • measures to cut off warring parties' access to mining sites in the DRC, as well as international trade routes and external networks;
  • ending the impunity protecting those engaged in illicit mineral exploitation and trade, through actions by the governments of DRC, neighbouring countries and countries where companies are registered;
  • thorough due diligence by all companies trading in minerals which may originate from eastern DRC and stronger corresponding action by their governments to hold accountable those who continue to trade in ways which fuel the conflict.


To the Congolese government

  • Set up a tighter control system over the chain of supply of minerals, from the point of extraction to the point of export. Establish a legal requirement that individuals or companies handling minerals, at every stage of the supply chain, produce written, verifiable documentation of the exact location from which the minerals originate and the identity of their suppliers and any intermediaries or third parties. Prohibit any mineral exports which do not carry such documentation.
  • Exercise greater oversight and control over the activities of comptoirs. Revoke the licences of comptoirs and n‚gociants (buyers) who persist in trading in minerals produced by or benefiting the warring parties (including those named by the UN Group of Experts) or who fail to produce precise, verifiable documentation on their chain of supply, as outlined above. Investigate reports that some comptoirs and n‚gociants are knowingly trading with armed groups or the FARDC and, where substantial evidence exists, initiate prosecutions.
  • Carry out spot checks on the identity of suppliers to comptoirs exporting minerals from North and South Kivu and investigate any fresh allegations or suspicions that some comptoirs may be obtaining supplies from individuals known to be close to armed groups or FARDC units involved in mineral exploitation.
  • Provide strong political and technical support to provincial-level government agencies responsible for controlling the mining sector, exports and border controls in North and South Kivu. Senior nationallevel government officials should be prepared to intervene promptly in cases where members of armed groups or the FARDC prevent provincial officials from doing their job. Government and judicial authorities should investigate reports of threats against civilian officials by members of armed groups or the FARDC and take action against those found responsible.

To Congolese government and military authorities

  • Closely monitor the conduct of army brigades deployed in mineral-rich areas; remove, discipline and, where appropriate, investigate and initiate prosecutions against those found responsible for the illicit exploitation of minerals and for human rights violations committed in this context.
  • Launch an investigation into reports that the 85th brigade, under the command of Colonel Sammy Matumo, has been exploiting and trading in cassiterite in Bisie from 2006 to March 2009. The brigade's redeployment in March 2009 should not serve as a substitute for legal action. If substantial evidence is found, initiate judicial proceedings against Colonel Sammy Matumo and other FARDC members found responsible for these offences and for human rights violations committed in this context. Ensure that the FARDC brigade replacing the 85th brigade is not based in Bisie and does not engage in mineral exploitation and trade.
  • Similarly, remove FARDC units known to be exploiting minerals in other locations in North and South Kivu and take action against their commanders and other FARDC members found responsible.
  • Launch an independent investigation into allegations that senior FARDC officials, at provincial and national level, may be profiting from the trade in minerals in North and South Kivu; ensure that any individuals found responsible for profiting from this trade or for ordering or sanctioning such behaviour by others within the FARDC are brought to justice, however senior their rank.
  • Immediately suspend and, where appropriate, initiate prosecutions against FARDC members who have collaborated with the FDLR and other armed groups responsible for grave human rights abuses, including through sharing the proceeds of the mineral trade.

To governments of neighbouring countries and transit countries

  • Fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1856 (2008) which requires "all States, especially those in the region, to take appropriate steps to end the illicit trade in natural resources, including if necessary through judicial means" and report to the UN Security Council on measures taken.
  • In view of the gravity of the human rights situation in eastern DRC and the fact that the warring parties rely heavily on funds from the mineral trade, carry out additional due diligence with a view to stopping imports of minerals which are produced by or benefit any of the warring parties. Tighten controls of mineral imports and insist that any minerals imported from the DRC are accompanied by verifiable documentation indicating their precise origin and the identity of intermediaries.
  • Launch investigations and, if appropriate, prosecutions against individuals or companies in their country who are trading in minerals produced by or benefiting any of the warring parties in eastern DRC. Suspend the trading licences of any such individuals or companies, pending the outcome of investigations.
  • Submit to the UN Sanctions Committee the names of individuals or companies based in their country whose trade in minerals is helping fund armed groups in eastern DRC.

To foreign governments, including diplomats and mediators involved in peace talks

  • Ensure that foreign policy on the DRC and the Great Lakes region addresses the economic drivers of the conflict as one of the central factors behind the continuing violence in eastern DRC.
  • Ensure that the question of the economic agendas of the warring parties is discussed explicitly and frankly in peace talks and other regional and international political dialogue. Make clear that the exploitation and trade of natural resources by armed groups and army units is not acceptable under any circumstance. Seek agreement among leaders of armed groups, as well as FARDC and government officials, on measures to halt this illicit trade and secure their commitment to implementing this agreement within their ranks. Under no circumstances should negotiations include a division or apportioning of natural resources between the warring parties.
  • Raise with the Congolese government, at the highest levels, the question of the involvement of FARDC units and military commanders in the mineral trade, and press for those responsible to be brought to justice.
  • Urge the Congolese government to implement the other measures listed above; provide assistance and support to enable the rapid implementation of these measures, in particular to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of provincial and local government bodies responsible for overseeing the mining sector and controlling exports.
  • Ensure that clear guidelines and instructions prohibiting the illicit exploitation of natural resources are included in security sector reform and training programmes for the Congolese security forces.
  • Provide political and technical support to MONUC (the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC), as well as assistance in the form of personnel, to enable it to fulfil its brief to "curtail the provision of support to illegal armed groups derived from illicit trade in natural resources", as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 1856 (2008).


  • Ensure that the task of curtailing the provision of support to armed groups through the trade in natural resources, included in MONUC's mandate since December 2008, is fully integrated into the work of UN military and civilian teams deployed in mineral-rich areas of North and South Kivu; that these teams report regularly on their findings; and that these findings are communicated promptly to the UN Security Council. These efforts should cover the exploitation of natural resources by all the principal armed groups.
  • In recognition of the fact that MONUC forces are severely overstretched, adopt a targeted approach to the strategy to combat illicit natural resource exploitation which can be implemented in the short term. Concentrate monitoring efforts on the principal mining sites known to be supplying armed groups and the trade routes known to be used by these groups, with a view to halting this trade. Set up monitoring and control points at strategic locations such as important mines, key border posts, airstrips and lake crossings used by armed groups. Carry out this work in close collaboration with Congolese provincial government authorities.

To the UN Security Council

  • Request regular reports on MONUC's progress in using "its monitoring and inspection capacities to curtail the provision of support to illegal armed groups derived from illicit trade in natural resources", as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1856 (2008); propose further actions by MONUC and/or UN member states, as appropriate, in response to MONUC's reports and findings.
  • Request regular reports from all member states on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1857 (2008), relating, in particular, to sanctions against individuals or entities in breach of the arms embargo, including against those who support armed groups through the trade in natural resources.
  • Continue to support the work of the Group of Experts and ensure that member states act on its findings.

To companies and traders purchasing, handling or trading in minerals originating from eastern DRC or neighbouring countries

  • Exercise stringent due diligence regarding their mineral supplies: find out exactly where the minerals were produced (not only the broad geographical area, but the precise location and mine), by whom they were produced and under what conditions (including use of forced labour, child labour, health and safety and other labour conditions).
  • Refuse to buy minerals if the above information is not available or if there are indications that the minerals have passed through the hands of any of the warring parties, benefited them in other ways, or otherwise involved human rights abuses.
  • Be able to demonstrate, with credible written evidence, the exact origin of their mineral supplies, the routes they have taken and the identity of those involved in the chain of custody, including intermediaries or third parties who have handled them.
  • Do not accept oral or vague assurances from suppliers as to the origin of minerals and the identity of their own suppliers. Carry out spot checks to verify the sources and the accuracy of suppliers' assurances. Require these measures in all circumstances, including in cases where minerals originate from areas which may be remote or difficult to access. Commission and publish regular independent third-party audits of their supply chain.
  • Federations and associations of comptoirs and other trade bodies: adopt an explicit policy not to buy or handle minerals which benefit any of the warring parties in eastern DRC. Require their members to carry out above due diligence steps systematically and to demonstrate precisely where all their supplies come from. Set up mechanisms for independently monitoring and checking whether their members are complying with these requirements.

To governments of home states in which companies are registered

  • Provide clear guidance to companies purchasing or trading in minerals from eastern DRC or intending to do so in the future. Publicly warn these companies that they should proceed with caution, that the government is monitoring the implications of their activities and that they could face a number of liability risks if they are found to be assisting or facilitating human rights abuses.iv
  • Insist that companies carry out the highest level of due diligence regarding their entire chain of supply, as outlined above. Adopt national legislation that requires the performance of due diligence extraterritorially (in this case, in the DRC and the Great Lakes region), identifies specific measures which companies are expected to take and standards they are expected to meet, and specifies government action which would be triggered by a company's failure to take these steps.
  • Ensure that these steps are taken not only in relation to imports from the DRC, but also from neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, as minerals originating from the DRC may be imported from these countries without being clearly identified as Congolese.
  • In parallel with initiatives to introduce legislation (as above), effectively monitor companies' adherence to international standards such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Reprimand those companies found to be in violation of these standards and formulate strong recommendations for remedying their business practices.
  • Where there are indications that companies may be trading in ways which are benefiting any of the warring parties, carry out immediate detailed investigations. If credible information confirms this link, officially advise the companies to cease trading and purchasing from that specific area or supplier until the companies can demonstrate that their trade is not financing any of the warring parties or contributing to human rights abuses. In cases where complicity can be demonstrated, initiate prosecutions against companies and individuals.
  • Submit to the UN Sanctions Committee the names of individuals or companies registered in their country whose trade in minerals is helping fund armed groups in eastern DRC, in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 1857 (2008). These should include companies named in the reports of the Group of Experts, such as those registered in the UK and Belgium.
  • Do not financially support or invest in companies whose trading activities benefit groups or individuals responsible for serious human rights abuses in eastern DRC, for example through export credit agencies or state pension schemes.

To the International Criminal Court (ICC)

  • Recognise the role of economic actors and companies in crimes within the ICC's jurisdiction, as set out in the Rome Statute.
  • Investigate individuals including those heading comptoirs and foreign companies buying minerals from North and South Kivu who, through their trading practices, are financing armed groups or army units responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity. Where appropriate, and pursuant to the principle of complementarity with national jurisdictions, initiate prosecutions of individuals against whom there is evidence of involvement in such crimes. Under the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction against an individual who "for the purpose of facilitating the commission of such a crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission, including providing the means for its commission".1
  • Encourage states to launch their own investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions of economic actors suspected of involvement in crimes within the ICC's mandate. Facilitate the work of national law enforcement agencies and monitor the progress of these investigations and prosecutions in national jurisdictions.

Global Witness is calling for actions targeted specifically at those parts of the mineral trade which are controlled by armed groups or military units and has developed the above recommendations with this goal in mind. A crackdown on this part of the trade would not have significant negative effects on the civilian population in the long term, as the profits currently derived from it serve primarily to enrich the elite of businessmen, the military and leaders of armed groups.

Global Witness does not take the position that mining activities in eastern DRC should cease altogether. Nor does it advocate a boycott or embargo of the trade as a whole, as such blanket measures would adversely affect the sections of the mineral trade which are not controlled by any of the warring parties.

The aim of Global Witness's campaign, therefore, is not to stop artisanal miners from trading, nor to close down mines in eastern DRC, but to exclude the warring parties, and their intermediaries, from the supply chain and trading networks, so that miners are able to sell only to legitimate, civilian buyers who do not have connections with any of the warring parties. Global Witness also aims to highlight, and ultimately stop, the grave human rights abuses committed by the warring parties involved in the exploitation and trade of minerals.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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