Briefing Document / Oct. 11, 2011

Congo government requires domestic minerals sector to source responsibly

Global Witness welcomes the Congolese government’s recent decision to compel mining and mineral trading companies operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to carry out checks on their supply chains, in line with international standards, to ensure their trade is not financing the warring parties in the east of the country.

Abusive armed groups, including the Congolese national army, make millions of dollars per year from illegally controlling and taxing the minerals trade in eastern DRC. The notice, issued by the Ministry of Mines earlier this month, aims to address this by requiring companies to adhere to due diligence guidelines developed last year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or face sanctions. 

The OECD due diligence framework provides detailed guidance that companies using tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold from conflict-affected areas can apply to make sure they are not causing harm through their mineral purchases. The UN Security Council adopted a similar framework in its November 2010 resolution on DRC. US Congress passed the Dodd Frank Act in July 2010, which contains a provision (1502) requiring US-registered companies using minerals mined in DRC and neighbouring countries to carry out due diligence on their supply chains. 

The Congolese government notice applies to all organisations and individuals involved in the mining, transportation, sale, processing and export of the four ‘conflict minerals’. Those who do not comply within 45 days will face administrative sanctions, including possible withdrawal of business licenses.

The move signals a heightened commitment by the Congolese authorities to clean up the country’s minerals sector. If the measures are enforced and companies operating in Congo – in particular the mineral export houses, or ‘comptoirs’ – carry out comprehensive due diligence, it will make it easier for firms further down the global supply chain to meet the requirements of the US law.

Minerals from eastern DRC, including those that benefit armed groups, are routinely transported and traded through neighbouring countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. In order to ensure that standards are met at all levels of the global supply chain, it is crucial that governments in the region should follow the DRC’s lead and require companies operating in their jurisdictions to implement internationally agreed due diligence guidelines.

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Contact: Annie Dunnebacke on +44 7912 517127, [email protected], or Oliver Courtney on +44 7739 324962, [email protected]

Note to editors:

  1. The Congolese government directive is Note Circulaire 002/CAB.MIN/MINES/01/2011, available here.
  2. For further detail on the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, please click here. For the November 2010 UN Security Resolution on DRC, see here.
  3. For more detailed information about supply chain due diligence and industry-led schemes in eastern Congo, please see Global Witness’s May 2011 report, Congo’s Minerals Trade in the Balance.