Gold smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, some from rebel areas, has been sold on the international market through Uganda and the United Arab Emirates in the past year, according to a report published yesterday by the United Nations.
The investigation by the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, based on a year of research, found evidence that gold produced in mines controlled by rebel groups is sold to traders in Uganda. One of these traders officially exported the precious metal to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2014 where, according to the report, gold from Congo is sold “without any difficulty”.
“The UN report lifts the lid on the dirty mineral trade that helps prop up rebels in Congo. It brings fresh, detailed evidence of individuals and companies that are profiting right now from the illegal trade. It is a scandal that Congo's mineral wealth continues to fund conflict more than a decade after hard evidence of this came to light,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Global Witness.
Global Witness previously revealed major failures in Dubai’s regulation of the minerals sector which increased risk of money laundering and of dirty gold from Congo and other conflict zones entering the global supply chain in 2012. The UAE has taken measures to clean up the gold trade, but these “fall short” of what is needed, according to the UN report.
In contrast to tantalum, tin and tungsten from Congo, there are no operational traceability or due diligence systems in the country’s gold sector. The UN report says that gold smuggled into Uganda in the past year included metal from mines controlled by rebels groups such as NDC, headed by Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka who is wanted for crimes against humanity, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group linked to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
The Group of Experts’ report also says that coltan, a tantalum ore, from eastern Congo is smuggled into Rwanda and points to flaws in responsible sourcing schemes. It investigated two cases of “suspected smuggling” of white coltan, a type which is only produced in Congo, involving two Rwandan companies. The two companies were suspended at the request of the Rwandan government for six months from the supply chain initiative run by the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI).
Other findings of the UN report include:
- Serious failings in the ITRI supply chain scheme known as iTSCi as investigators were able to obtain the plastic tags used to certify minerals as “conflict free” in Congo and Rwanda, which would allow coltan from unknown sources to enter the supply chain;
- Involvement of members of the Congolese army, including Colonel Mugabo and Captain Mputu, in smuggling minerals. Colonel Mugabo was initially arrested with 1,363kg of coltan in his vehicle but was later released. No disciplinary action was taken against Captain Mputu but a Lieutenant Colonel who had tried to seize the truck in which Mputu was transporting minerals was suspended.
Governments in the region have made it a legal requirement for companies to do checks on their mineral purchases – known as supply chain due diligence – but implementation is patchy. The United States has legislation in place that requires US-listed companies to check that their purchases of metals have not funded warring parties and the European Union is developing regulation on conflict minerals, although the current proposal is only for a voluntary scheme.
Hundreds of thousands of artisanal miners, or diggers, work in Congo’s mines, only some of which are controlled by armed groups. As of November, 116 mines in Congo have been validated “green” by mixed teams of validators as part of a government-led mine site checking programme, indicating that there are no armed groups present.
“Managed responsibly, Congo’s mineral riches could help bring prosperity instead of violence to one of the world’s poorest countries. Local and international companies must step up their efforts to ensure that all minerals from conflict areas, especially gold, are sourced responsibly. The Congolese government and its neighbours must protect the rights of artisanal miners and support efforts to create conflict-free supply chains,” said Dyer.
Nathaniel Dyer, Campaign Leader, DRC +44 (0)77 11 006 799, [email protected]
Notes to editors
- The full report, “Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, published on-line on 19 January 2015, is available here:http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/19
- To learn more about the proposed EU regulation on conflict minerals go here: http://www.globalwitness.org/conflictminerals/