NGO report finds that most conflict in eastern Dem. Rep. of Congo not related to mining, warns that responsible sourcing initiatives could negatively impact local community

The Danish Institute for International Studies and the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) released an updated report and webpage analyzing 10 years' worth of data relating to conflict and artisanal mining in Eastern DRC. The findings suggest that most conflict is actually unrelated to mining activities, but groups in the area will fund themselves by other means, such as road blocks. The report also analyzed the effects of responsible sourcing programmes on the region and found that sites linked to these programmes experienced less armed interferance over time. However, responsible sourcing programmes also proved to have unintended consequences, such as increased poverty for artisanal miners, and often fail to improve local development or fight corruption.

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29 April 2019

IPIS releases report & webmap on armed conflict in eastern Dem. Rep. of Congo's artisanal mining sector

Author: Ken Matthysen & Peer Schouten, IPIS

"Mapping Artisanal Mining Areas and Mineral Supply Chains in DRC", 9 April 2019.

In a new report and webmap, IPIS presents its updated data on armed conflict and armed interference in eastern DRC's artisanal mining sector...The report illustrates that responsible sourcing efforts have indeed improved the personal security of groups of artisanal miners in several provinces. However, these are relatively fragile gains and the underlying problems remain unchanged.

IPIS also establishes that most of the armed conflicts appear to be unrelated to mining activities. Armed interference in artisanal mining often rather concerns illegal ‘protection rackets’, while armed confrontations largely take place elsewhere and for other stakes...

IPIS data...shows that armed interference is decreasing over time in areas with more scrutiny – where responsible sourcing initiatives are being implemented. IPIS however also notes that the widespread corruption among state agents further enables illegal mineral supply chains to persist, and to contaminate ‘responsible supply chains’. It raises serious questions about the effectiveness of traceability...Responsible sourcing initiatives have increased the level of organization of the artisanal mining sector (ASM). However, responsible sourcing seems to have been particularly instrumental to local elites...

The limited impact of responsible sourcing on local development raises the question how sustainable the current situation is. So far, increasing regulation of the artisanal mining sector and responsible sourcing efforts, have rather had a negative overall effect on the socio-economic position of artisanal miners...In order to increase sustainability, responsible sourcing efforts should increase their level of engagement towards national and local governments in eastern DRC. Externally controlled clean supply chains in a context of failing governance will not persist. It is a shared responsibility to ensure that in-country authorities manage to actually control responsible sourcing...

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29 April 2019

Why responsible sourcing of DRC minerals has major weak spots

Author: Ken Matthysen, The Conversation

"Why responsible sourcing of DRC minerals has major weak spots"

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is rich in minerals such as coltan, tantalum, tin and gold. All are coveted for their widespread use in modern technologies, like semiconductors for cars and mobile phones. These minerals are widely held to be at the heart of over two decades of conflict in eastern DRC, involving dozens of armed groups in shifting alliances. These ongoing tensions have cost the lives of over five million people...Because of this, responsible sourcing initiatives were born with the hope that they would increase oversight on mineral supply chains. The idea was that they would enable consumers to demand that companies account for where their minerals came from to ensure that they are conflict free...the Danish Institute for International Studies and the International Peace Information Service launched a report on lessons learnt from 10 years of our research on conflict minerals in the DRC. We found that even though some armed groups rely on minerals for funding, they do not fuel conflict in eastern DRC. This is because most groups in the area fund themselves in other ways, like roadblocks...

Guidelines and regulations – like the US’s Dodd Frank Act – target companies selling products which might contain “conflict minerals”. They pressure them to monitor their mineral supply chains to ensure that they don’t contribute to conflict or human rights violations...But responsible sourcing – and the increased regulation it comes with – has also had unintended consequences. One is that it’s had a negative effect on informal artisanal miners...For instance in Rubaya, eastern Congo, after schemes were set up to trace the source and certify minerals, artisanal miners complained of rising poverty and unemployment...Many of the artisanal miners who find themselves out of work, resort to banditry. A second weakness is that it’s not even clear that the minerals subject to responsible sourcing or traceability programmes are actually conflict free...For responsible sourcing to be sustainable a way needs to be found to plug the loopholes, and to uplift artisanal miners.

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