|Picture credit: wikipedia.org/Alchemist-hp
|Countries rich in minerals such as cobalt, coltan, cassiterite, copper, and gold are often marred by corruption, authoritarian repression, militarization, and civil war. Rebel groups, governments and mining companies exploit mineral resources, fueling civil and interstate conflict as players vie for control over riches. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo have fallen victim to rebels who use revenue from minerals such as diamonds, coltan and cassiterite to purchase arms and fuel conflict. Governments often establish repressive military regimes in mineral producing regions to protect their "national interests," but local populations rarely see the profits and are subjected to environmental damage wrought by corporations. The articles and analyses below follow the dark nexus between mineral riches and bloody conflict.
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US companies are now required to publicly disclose their efforts to ensure that their products are free of "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Legislators attached the new law to a massive (unrelated) financial reform bill that passed in Congress, drawing praise from NGOs and industry officials alike. Although the bill does not impose penalties on companies that report taking no action, its proponents say that concerned consumers can now distinguish between companies that monitor minerals and those that do not. For more analysis on this issue, visit the GPF Blog
. (The Washington Post
and Global Policy Forum)
Activists have shed light on the dark side of natural resources with a timely and creative message. Playing off of an advertising campaign of the Apple corporation, the Enough Project has effectively used YouTube and Facebook to raise awareness over the use of conflict minerals in common gadgets like iPhones, PC computers, and Blackberrys. The activists believe that tech corporations need to display more transparency when it comes to minerals like tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold. One organizer describes the campaign's goals succinctly: "There's no magic-bullet solution to peace in Congo, but this is one of the drivers of the conflict." For more analysis on this issue and for a link to Enough's YouTube video, see GPF's blog
. (The New York Times
and Global Policy Forum)
The UN renewed sanctions on the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 29, 2010. Resolution 1952 added an interesting new component. The resolution includes guidelines for importers, processors and consumers buying Congolese minerals, which are the source of funding for many rebel groups. The resolution language is weak and non-binding, but it is significant. It is the first time the Council has acted so broadly on the role that natural resources play in conflict.
This report describes how a number of neighboring countries are perpetuating the war in the DRC by illegally exploiting its natural resources. It calls for a moratorium on third-country exports of Congolese minerals, and suggests the possibility of future sanctions.
The report investigates the illegal exploitation of diamonds, cobalt, coltan, gold and other lucrative resources in the DRC. It recommends to the Security Council a temporary embargo on natural resources imported and exported from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
The panel expresses its frustration that few of those involved in the Congolese conflict are willing to cooperate with the panel's investigation.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act 2010 aimed to restrict the trade of conflict minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Trade in these minerals is crucial to the electronic and other industries. Since the early 2000s, The United Nations Group of Experts and many international NGOs have highlighted the link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC and revenues from the illegal trade that finances rebel groups and fuels conflict in the region. The Dodd-Frank act however, does not ban or penalize the use of conflict minerals. If a company is sourcing minerals from the DRC, they merely have to make public their imports and report their source to the American Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The increased attention that conflict over minerals received is a welcome development. However, such initiatives will have little impact unless domestic governance issues are addressed. (Enough Project)
This Global Witness report focuses on the 2007 China-Congo deal between two Chinese construction companies and the Congolese government. The agreement promises minerals from Congo’s Kinshasa region to be sold to the Chinese companies while the Chinese invest in infrastructure development in Congo. While the deal appears to be a “win-win” for both sides, Global Witness highlights the lack of information available about the finances of the deal and how it will continue to play out. (Global Witness)
Exploitation of Papua New Guinea’s natural resources at the Porgera gold mine has led to violence, human rights abuses, corruption, and environmental degradation. Operated by Canadian company Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining corporation, the mine generates enormous wealth while Porgera remains impoverished. Human Rights Watch documented acts of gang rape by private mine security personnel, abuses committed against illegal miners scavenging for discarded bits of rock on the mine’s sprawling waste dumps. HRW calls on the Canadian government to undertake legislative initiatives of corporate social responsibility, investigate allegations of abuse, and introduce a regulatory framework to sanction and publicly report on companies failing to meet minimum human rights standards overseas. (Human Rights Watch)
This report by Global Witness highlights the recent developments of resource conflict in the DRC, notably Security Council Resolution 1952 from November 2010. It discusses the Congolese army's role in perpetuating the conflict and the lack of corporate due diligence to trace the origins of minerals. The report gives a series of recommendations that address each level of the conflict, underlining how the DRC and other countries can apply pressure on the illicit mining in Congo. (Global Witness)
Observers have focused on the Kivu region in the DRC because it is the center of the worst conflicts over minerals. However, the surrounding areas are more stable and show promise for managing resource extraction while mitigating conflict. This International Alert
report discusses the situation in the Kivu Hinterlands and argues that the region could be the first step in improving due diligence in the mining sector. (International Alert
Global Witness has published a major report on the role of international mining companies in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report shows how the companies are aiding the continued trade in "conflict minerals" and fuelling the fighting in the DRC. (Global Winess)
This report reveals the concealed role of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as eastern DRC rebel groups fight for the control of cassiterite. Global Witness urges the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on cassiterite and coltan imports from Rwanda, as well as to include monitoring of natural resources exploitation and flows in the mandate of MONUC.
This Human Rights Watch
report "documents human rights abuses linked to efforts to control" key mining areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While Ugandan soldiers have "coerced gold miners to extract the gold for their benefit," multinational gold corporations exploring in the area have provided logistical and financial support to violent Congolese armed groups. According to the report, "the international community has failed to effectively tackle" this problem. Although the UN appointed a panel of experts to investigate the role of illegal exploitation of natural resources in the conflict, the Security Council failed to establish a mechanism to follow up the panel's recommendations.
This Global Witness report exposes the dynamics and negative impacts of the illicit trade in coltan and copper in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mining sector is largely uncontrolled and marred by a lack of transparency leading to economic and social problems that, if unaddressed, could "fuel a resurgence of historical secessionist sentiments."
This report by Michael Ross of Oxfam America
delineates how mineral and oil extraction lead to corruption, authoritarian repression, militarization, and civil war. The report contests the conventional economic wisdom propagated by the International Financial Institutions, which claim that developing nations prosper by extracting and exporting their oil and mineral wealth.
The summary of this report by Project Underground reveals Freeport McMoRan's complicity in the Suharto regime's repression of indigenous peoples.
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Every year, millions of euro worth of minerals flow into the EU from some of the poorest places on earth. No questions are asked about how they are extracted, or how it impacts on local communities. The EU has no legislation in place to ensure companies source their minerals responsibly. The trade in resources – such as gold, diamonds, tantalum, tin, copper and coal – continues to perpetuate a cycle of conflict and human rights abuses in many fragile areas of the world. Now is the time for change. Ahead of a landmark vote on a new conflict minerals law to be held in the European Parliament on 20 May 2015, 157 civil society organisations urgently call on Members of the European Parliament to vote for a law which will finally tackle the trade in conflict minerals and ensure that European companies do not benefit from and contribute to human rights abuses. (amnesty international)
Fighting between tribes has broken out in Darfur over access to gold mines and levies on miners. 100,000 people have already left their homes, and over 100 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the government. The tribes once relied on Sudanese government support from oil revenues. However, since the secession of South Sudan, tribes began mining to replace the loss of income. Following the outbreak of violence, 60,000 civilians have fled to the remote desert town of El Sireaf, already host to 2,500 previously displaced people. The UN has spent $2 million on this operation due to the difficulty in transporting food and medicine through desert roads and the need for high security. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Khartoum, Sudan, stated that they haven't seen sudden displacement on this scale in years. (Al Jazeera)
M23 Congolese rebels use the revenue from gold titanium and tin mines in the North of the country to finance their operation. The M23 allegedly uses posts at the Ugandan border to smuggle illegal gold and minerals into Kampala. According to a UN Group of Experts for Congo, two shipments of conflict gold were smuggled into Uganda in December 2012, which had the combined value of $19 million. The mineral-rich territories in the North Kivu province are host to killings by Congolese rebel groups against the mining settlers the M23 claims to fight for. Mine operators and miners families are being forced to flee their villages due to the high threat of attack from rebel groups. Little progress has been made to regulate the trade of conflict gold from Eastern Congo. (Enough Project)
In an effort to increase transparency and accountability of the diamond trade, Sierra Leone has launched the first online mining database in West Africa. The database will post all revenue data on extracted natural resources and identify which mining companies are legally authorized to operate. Although the database is a step forward, the new system will still rely on government officials, not independent sources, to upload the data. (IPS Terraviva)
The delay of the Dodd-Franks Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a US law known primarily for regulating the US financial market, is perpetuating the sale of “conflict minerals” that fuel and fund atrocities in the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The law requires all SEC listed companies to report whether they are sourcing “conflict minerals” from armed militias in order to make consumer goods for US markets. However, the law is currently stalled at the SEC rule-making body, allowing armed groups and corporations to benefit from the mineral trade. (IPS Terraviva)
As the world focuses on peaceful protest movements of the Arab Spring, armed police are beating, torturing, and killing West Papuans who continue to demand independence. While the Indonesian government and transnational corporations make enormous profits from exploiting natural resources on the island, local Papuans remain impoverished. The companies Freeport-McMoRan and Rio Tinto derive enormous wealth from the Grasberg Mine while destroying the environment and funding human rights abuses by the Indonesian military, with disastrous consequences for the Papuan people. (Al Jazeera)
Extraction rights to Mongolia’s natural resources, thought to be the largest deposit of coking coal on Earth, will be auctioned off to overseas bidders. Because the mines use scarce water rapidly, locals fear extraction will devastate the environment and threaten the livelihood of nomads in the southern Gobi, exacerbating concerns over usage rights. The next lucrative supermine to come will be operated by Ivanhoe Mines and the notorious Rio Tinto. Despite potential for corruption and weak oversight, UNDP officials expressed hope that democratic Mongolia could serve as an example of transparent, environmentally sensitive resource extraction that benefits the whole population. (Guardian)
Chancellor Angela Merkel, in close collaboration with German industries, is spearheading a project aimed at securing Germany’s supply of natural resources. Rare-earth, in particular, has become essential in the production of many daily as well as high-tech items. The demand for rare-earths has risen dramatically, fuelling competition between countries. China is Germany’s primary competitor as the Chinese government is using its huge influence in Mongolia and Africa to conclude contracts granting it access to natural resources. Germany is thus leading a more aggressive policy to secure its share of raw materials. (Spiegel)
Global Witness calls on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to resist aggressive industry pressure and issue robust regulations to combat trade in conflict minerals and stem attacks on civilians in the Congo. The SEC is finalizing rules to implement Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, a provision requiring companies to carry out “due diligence” checks on supply chains to determine whether their products contain conflict minerals. This presents the best chance to establish a clean minerals trade that contributes to development, rather than fueling instability. Though the provision is already spurring positive changes on the ground, the Chamber of Commerce claims it is too burdensome for companies. (Global Witness)
Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and US-based mining corporation Freeport routinely made illegal payments to the Indonesian armed forces to secure its Grasberg mine operation, despite the military’s long history of human rights violations. These mining companies made annual payments averaging $5m each year for government-provided security. Additional funding went directly to individual commanders, such as General Mahidin Simbolon, who led the 1999 East Timor massacre, and the police Mobile Brigade, a group cited by the US State Department as having committed serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arbitrary detention. A 2007 Indonesian ministerial decree demanded that the security of "vital national objects,” such as Grasberg, be handed over to police within six months, but the corporations have yet to comply. (Al Jazeera)
Mining and electric multinational corporations are exacerbating the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo by engaging in exploitative supply chains and taking advantage of a weakly regulated international banking system. The conflict is rooted in the struggle among national and regional actors for control of mining operations, tensions over ethnicity, diminishing land availability, and access to state resources. MNCs profit from an accommodating system which permits large sums earned from conflict minerals to be deposited abroad, while people living within the DRC remain impoverished. To help stabilize the Congo, powerful states, NGOs, and major international organizations should support due diligence in supply chains and international banking. (Foreign Policy in Focus)
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a coalition aimed at better governance of natural resources, has accepted Guatemala as a candidate for membership. In order to become a member, Guatemala must comply with several steps, which would make its extractive industries more transparent. The government hopes that by joining EITI, the population will be able to trust that sound practices are taking place and that they are benefitting from their natural resources extraction. As a result of EITI’s influence, Latin America is becoming more responsible for its extractive industries, which will hopefully bring positive benefits to the populations of the resource rich countries. (IPS)
The Dodd-Frank Act, in the US, is a recent example of government action on corporations using conflict minerals. However, this article argues that the Dodd-Frank Act, and similar action in other countries, provides a very limited response to the illicit mineral trade. While the act requires companies to show where their mineral resources come from as part of good practice, it does not hold them accountable. Furthermore, international oversight of resource extraction is notoriously difficult in conflict-ridden regions. The Kimberley Process for diamonds demonstrates the difficulty with using "certificate of origin" to determine where natural resources have come from. Governments should to take a stronger stand with real penalties for corporations that continue to use conflict minerals. (Ethical Corporation)
"Blood in the Mobile" is a documentary recently released in Europe that examines the link between mineral mines in eastern Congo and mobile phone manufacturing. In eastern Congo, film director Frank Poulsen visited a mine that is producing minerals to be sent to cell phone makers worldwide. Several factions are fighting for control of the mine and its profits. Cell phone companies are unable to guarantee that their materials do not come from mines that are funding the conflict.(bloodinthemobile.org)
Competition for natural resources is fueling the conflict in the Congo, especially in the North Kivu region. Recently, the BBC investigated the Omate mine. General Gabriel Amisi Kumba, Second in command of the Congolese army, secured the mine for the mining company Gerimanco in exchange for a share in the profits. General Kumba worked to remove the company Socragrimines in favor of Gerimanco, but according to the head of the Congolese mining industry, neither company had the rights to Omate. After a state-wide ban on mining went into place in October, Gerimanco was removed from Omate, but production has continued under control of the Congolese military.(BBC)
The people of El Salvador have been successfully fighting off advances from giant mining companies, notorious for environmental destruction and damage to the health and livelihoods of native residents. The popular resolve has spread to the Salvadoran government, which has denied permits for gold mining in the country, sending a strong message that El Salvador will no longer tolerate foreign investors who are detrimental to its own natural environment. Yet this success of democracy is now threatened by a Washington free-trade tribunal in which two transnational mining companies are attempting to sue the government of El Salvador for denying them access to the resource. (Epoch Times)
Global Witness, an NGO that works to sever the link between natural resources and conflict, is trying to sue the UK government. Global Witness claims that the government has failed to submit a list of companies that purchase "conflict minerals," despite strong evidence that UK companies are funding conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in this way. This would be in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1857, and thus Global Witness argues that London is breaching its international legal obligations. (Oneworld.net)
Phosphorus is an essential element to the global food chain, and it is running out. Across the world, farmers treat their crops with phosphorous-rich fertilizers to boost crop yields, scientists use it to synthesize DNA and it is vital to healthy bone-growth. Current levels of phosphorus use are dangerously high, a consequence of the Green Revolution. Estimations suggest that, at current rates, phosphorous depletion can be expected in thirty to forty years. As resource scarcity increases, governments will wrangle to secure access to this vital and rare element. (Foreign Policy)
Almoustapha Alhacen is challenging the French nuclear company, Areva, accusing it of contaminating water resources and causing serious illness in Niger. Areva's total sales of uranium last year totaled $19 billion; however, Arlit - the location of the uranium mine - has received nothing but contaminated wells, radiation poisoning and water shortage. The French company provides scant safety equipment for the mines workers and when diseases arise they attempt to disguise the symptoms as something else. (Der Spiegel)
Former CNDP rebels - who integrated with the Congolese army in 2009 - are running extortion rackets in the tin and tantalum mining areas in eastern Congo. These rackets provide the ex-rebels with the necessary resources to re-arm and resume fighting whenever they wish. Global Witness emphasizes how crucial it is that the demilitarization of mines be set as a condition for the withdrawal of UN Peacekeeping force MONUC. (Global Witness)
Peru is one of the world's largest producers of gold, copper, tin, zinc and silver. The massive increase in natural resource exportation has promoted economic growth; however, it has also created governance challenges, high levels of deforestation and widespread environmental degradation. Further, a recent report by Peru's national ombudsman office attributed forty-seven-percent of social conflict in 2009 to have grown from the environmental issues of the extraction industry. The country has made some efforts to tackle the negative consequences of its natural-resource based economy - but it must act efficiently and quickly if it is to avoid falling prey to the "natural resource curse." (Council on Foreign Relations)
Steep increases in the price of gold have encouraged thousands of Peruvians to search for the metal in the Amazon River. However, the method of extraction uses approximately five grams of mercury for every gram of gold extracted; consequently, poisoning one of the planets "most biodiverse rainforests.". (Christian Science Monitor)
Civil conflict in Congo is driven by violent struggle for control of natural resources. One of the deadliest conflict minerals is col-tan, which used in mobile phones and other electronic devices. A leaked UN report on DRC identifies the key players in the col-tan trade. Niotan, an electronics company based in Nevada, is pinpointed as one such company, whose purchase of minerals from eastern Congo is helping finance the decade-long war.(Global Post)
Despite chronic outbreaks of violence in the DRC, a Canadian mining company has started a project to dig for gold in the eastern part of the country, hoping to extract up to $10 billion worth of precious metal. The region's recent history shows that the exploitation of mines by foreign companies has often led to violent conflicts between local militias and neighboring countries over the control of natural resources. (Toward Freedom)
A new NGO paper shows how "conflict minerals" that are used in laptops, cell phones and other devices, directly fuel violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rebel groups sell conflict minerals to Western technology companies, in exchange for money, which allows them to purchase arms, and serve as a direct cause of widespread violence in the country. Western governments should stop fueling the conflict by adopting legislation "that requires companies to disclose where their minerals are sourced, and creates penalties for those who continue purchasing conflict minerals." (Inter Press Service)
Environmental groups and civilians in El Salvador protest against the work of the Canadian based Pacific Rim Mining Company, because it negatively affects the environment and the inhabitant's livelihood. Gold and silver mining pollutes the water, causes acid drainage and increases water shortages, negatively affecting the health of four million people in El Salvador. Whereas mining is disadvantageous for the population, the mining company will make an estimated nine billion dollars in long-term profit. (Inter Press Service)
The majority of coltan, used in mobile phones and soup tins, comes from rebel-controlled mines in Congo. Miners pay their employees less than a dollar per kilogram of the mineral and often use children to work for them. After Congolese citizens carry 50 kilograms of coltan for more than 2 days to another part of Congo, traders sell the mineral in the UK, Belgium, and other industrialized countries. (Telegraph)
This Inter Press Service article discusses the effect of mining on indigenous people living in Chile. Chilean citizens fear that Canadian mining contracts, established with the Chilean government, will open the door to more large-scale mining projects that pollute the rivers with heavy metals, illegally take land from indigenous communities, destroy archeological sites and prohibit the indigenous population from herding their animals in certain areas.
The British government has reaffirmed claims by the UK organization, Global Witness, which states that Afrimex, a UK company, contributes to human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo by trading minerals. Global Witness argues that Afrimex buys minerals from Congolese rebel groups that commit human rights abuses and therefore supports and buys minerals produced in conditions of forced and child labor.
The Democratic Republic of Congo's vast deposits of cobalt, copper, diamonds, and gold has sparked innumerous conflicts since the Belgian colonial period. Between 1999 and 2007 militias clashed over the control of mineral resources leaving approximately 60,000 civilians dead. This article argues that large mining companies, such as foreign-owned AngloGold Ashanti, finance militias that fight over control of mines in the eastern and northern Ituri regions. The mining industry regulates most of the region's employment, allowing the companies and their militias to exploit poor workers who have no choice but to dig for minerals under the barrel of a gun. (CorpWatch)
In 2003, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and opposition militia groups signed a UN-brokered peace deal allowing the Ituri province limited autonomy with increased revenues from the area's rich natural resources. However, the government has reneged on the deal, by signing a secret concession with transnational corporations to drill for oil near Lake Albert. As a result, militia groups are rearming against government forces and using child soldiers to transport timber resources to neighboring countries. (International Crisis Group)
Rival militias undermine the UN peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to exploit natural resources, states the Institute of Security Studies. Due to the economic benefits of controlling mining and logging industries in the area, groups such as the Fronts de liberation de Rwanda and the Mayi Mayi in Kivu refuse to give up arms to UN peacekeepers (MONUC). The author argues that if MONUC fails to disarm the militias, civil war could return to the DRC.
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) makes progress in renegotiating mining contracts signed during the country's civil war, says World Politics Review. Rich multinational companies signed lucrative extraction deals with the government and rebel leaders during the war in exchange for money and military hardware. Although the article praises the DRC government for reviewing these mining contracts, the author warns that the renegotiation stage is open to corruption, and that any failure to distribute the natural resources fairly could trigger further violence in the country.
In March 2008, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) published a review claiming that it would renegotiate the exploitative mining contracts signed during the civil war (1996-2006). However, this renegotiation process remains secretive, with the DRC government excluding NGOs from participating in the negotiations. This report urges the DRC to distribute money from natural resources to local communities, and to publicize government income from rich multi-national corporations. (A Fair Share of Congo
This Pambazuka report illustrates the strategic and economic importance of the Democratic Republic of Congo's natural resources to Western corporations. Due to vast mineral reserves, "Congo, probably more than any other African nation, has been subjected to repeated external intervention." Highlighting the role of companies such as Tenke Mining, Phelps Dodge and Freeport McMoRan, this report concludes that mining contracts amass spectacular wealth at the expense of the Congolese people.
In 2006, the UN Security Council requested that the Peacebuilding Commission help Sierra Leone devise a strategy for reconstruction and poverty reduction. Although this country has a long history of natural resource exploitation, a June 2007 PBS draft does not refer to this issue. In response, Global Witness submitted a report to the PBC indicating the link between the exploitation of natural resources and the root causes of Sierra Leone's civil war. It also recommended that the Commission include natural resources post-conflict management, in countries where exploitation funds conflicts.
This ZNet article describes how minerals from Kivu Province mines in DR Congo finance conflict there. In particular, General Laurent Nkunda, whom the International Criminal Court indicted for war crimes in 2002, finances his military occupation of North Kivu with proceeds from the Lueshe mine's pyrochlore. Nkunda illegally exports the pyrochlore using circumventive methods similar to those used in illegal diamond trade, used for example to fund West African rebel groups.
A coalition of NGOs from Europe, Africa and the United States launch an international appeal, calling on the Congolese government to "clarify and revise all mining contracts inherited from the past, set up an independent mechanism to monitor the implementation of contracts, and ensure transparent and fair management of mining resources." The aim is to try to ensure that yields from the country's vast natural resources benefit the population. The appeal will be presented to the president of the World Bank, the government of the DRC and the partner countries of the DRC on April 14 and 15. (Terraviva)
Despite the growing demand for colton, a mineral used in mobile phones and laptops, the implications of coltan exploitation are largely disregarded by the countries that trade in this mineral. In the DRC, home to the world's largest coltan reserves, rebels fund their armies by trading coltan to big electronic companies. Although these corporations claim not to purchase the mineral from conflict areas, electronics worldwide contain illegally stolen colton from the DRC. (Harvard International Review)
While the democratic elections give hope for the future in DRC, peace in the country will depend on the government taking greater control over the mines. Minerals such as coltan, cassiterite, tin oxide and cobalt, heavily abundant in DRC, have a tremendous value as they are needed to make cell phones, laptop computers and other portable electronics. Poorly paid soldiers have strong incentive to gain control over resource-rich areas. Soldiers have been founded using intimidation, pillage, arbitrary arrests or torture to tax or steal what mining workers extract. (AlterNet)
John Pilger describes Indonesia's brutal occupation of West Papua as "one of the great secrets of our time." He describes how the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" referendum on West Papua's future was rigged to ensure that the resource rich island remained under Indonesian control. Pilger accuses the "international community" of betraying West Papua for a stake in the island's huge gold and copper reserves. Today, Indonesia protects its largest source of revenue – US mining companies in West Papua – by brutally suppressing West Papuans demands for freedom. (New Statesman)
Holding elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is no panacea, warns this analyst from the International Crisis Group. To build a functioning democracy, the new government will need to address the role of natural resources in fuelling the nine-year war. By ensuring that copper and gold extraction benefits the Congolese people - not just international mining companies and local elites - the government could prevent recurring violence. (East African)
According to a political affairs officer of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, peacekeepers "don't have the means" to prevent Ugandan-backed rebels from illegally exporting gold from the northeastern region of Ituri to Europe. In addition, some ministers of the Kinshasa government are directly involved in gold trafficking and have no interest in establishing peace in the region. As a result, the unbothered rebels continue to violate the UN-established arms embargo by purchasing arms with the profits generated by the gold mining industry. (Le Monde diplomatique)
Rising prices in valuable mineral resources have renewed tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In November 2004 Rwanda threatened to invade the DRC, arguing Kinshasa harbors Hutu militias who participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Armed Rwandan-backed groups control Congolese mines and profit from the increasing value of coltan, casting doubt on Rwanda's intentions as its troops gather on the DRC's borders. Experts fear clashes between Congolese government forces and renegade factions could destroy the fragile peace process in the country. (Mail and Guardian Online)
Congolese in Northeast Ituri say the region will not stabilize as long as private entrepreneurs and military figures run the province. A lack of border controls and airspace control facilitates gun trade into the region, which has contributed to the killing of at least 50,000 people in clashes between Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. As foreign traders exploit Congo's natural resources, they fuel ethnic strife in the DRC by providing local militias with weapons in return for protection of mining businesses. (Reuters)
A 2002 UN Panel of Experts report charged 85 Western companies with looting up to $5 billion worth of minerals in the DRC and asked individual states to conduct their own investigations into the pillaging of gold, diamonds, timber and coltan. Despite the gravity of the charges, the British government has made "little progress in examining and resolving the allegations" and British companies involved in the scandal have yet to face any punishments. (East African)
Kinshasa plans to halt the flow of high-tech mineral coltan, mined by rebels in the east of the country to finance and prolong local conflicts. Experts estimate coltan mining yielded an average of $20 million a month for rebels in control of the mines during Congo's civil war, and argue the mineral is a destabilizing factor in eastern DRC. (Reuters)
In the 1990s, the Peruvian government implemented a series of legal reforms aimed at attracting foreign investment in the mining sector. As a result, investment increased but the environmental and social costs clearly outweighed any benefits for local communities. This Christian Aid report calls for more stringent national and international regulation to ensure that poor communities benefit from industrial development where it takes place.