DRC: Illegal gold mining in the north-east continues to fuel conflict despite conflict mineral regulations

Author: Deutsche Welle, Published on: 16 January 2019

"Investigating DR Congo's illegal gold trade", 8 January 2019.

The current mood in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is tense...armed groups in the north-east continue to take advantage of a weak government and meddle in the minerals trade...Since 2017, we have been investigating the impact of illegal gold mining in the region. Our initial research led us to Obima Faustin, a hustler who says he will tell us more about the illegal gold trade...Along the northeastern border region, most of the gold mines are small in scale and don't rely on heavy machinery...According to the Belgian research group, International Peace Information Service (IPIS)...almost 200,000 people work in these artisanal mines and not all have licenses to do so. IPIS visited 2,400 sites and found that armed groups were present at 64 percent of the mines, alongside the miners...

Just as the DRC is rich in natural resources, it is also 'rich' in armed groups — from civil defense militias to rebel forces and criminal gangs...In the DRC's many artisanal mines, gold is both valuable and easy to find. So these armed groups will often try to find a way to get involved in the industry, mostly through forced labor or smuggling...IPIS estimates that between 75 and 98 percent of the gold crosses the border into Uganda illegally...Despite its shady origins, the majority of the gold trade process is far more transparent. This is thanks to the involvement of local dealers like Oryema James, who has a Ugandan government license to buy and sell gold. This means the gold he exports is certified before it changes hands..."We buy the gold from them, put the documents in order, pay taxes to the [Ugandan] government and export it to Dubai, China and the United Kingdom. So it becomes a legal export product with Uganda as the country of origin"...The Ugandan Minister of State for Minerals, Peter Lokeris, acknowledges that this process might compromise the legal trade...

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