New report undermines DRC mineral traders’ due diligence claims

New evidence uncovered by the BBC highlights how international mineral trading companies may still be funding armed groups operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite their claims of improved due diligence.

A report broadcast by BBC news on Wednesday about the conflict in eastern DRC confirms that commercial links continue to exist between Congolese traders, international mineral trading companies, and armed groups in the region. This is an issue that Global Witness has been campaigning on for years.

The report, produced exclusively by the BBC, reveals how no mining area is off-limits for Congolese middle-men, or ‘négociants', sourcing and supplying minerals to trading houses in eastern DRC, despite many sites being controlled by armed groups and the national army. A négociants' representative interviewed stated that: "Négociants buy minerals from anywhere and there is no area where we are not allowed to buy from".

The BBC reported that one major mineral trader in South Kivu, Panju, named previously by Global Witness and the UN Group of Experts, supplied $4.4 million worth of cassiterite and coltan in the first four months of 2009 to British-owned Amalgamated Metals Corporation, AMC. This is despite claims by AMC that it had cleaned up its supply-chain. Cassiterite and coltan are used to make, amongst other things, mobile phones and computers.

"This new evidence lays bare the fact that buyers are not doing enough to find out whether their trade is financially benefiting armed groups," said Global Witness Campaigns Director Gavin Hayman. "Clearly much more needs to be done so that international companies carry out proper due diligence. Companies like AMC are saying that they want to do the right thing, which is progress, but they can't simply rely on the verbal assurances of their suppliers."

In July this year Global Witness published a report on the eastern DRC, "Faced with a gun, what can you do?" The report detailed how many mining areas in eastern DRC are controlled by rebels and the national army, who attack, exploit and extort from civilians systematically. It named AMC along with a number of other international companies as buying from suppliers whose middle men traded with armed groups.

Global Witness is calling for the following actions:

  • Companies trading in minerals from the DRC should carry out stringent due diligence throughout their supply chain to ensure that they are not funding the warring parties. They should refuse to buy minerals if they are unable to confirm the precise origin of the goods or if there is any indication of armed groups or military units benefiting from the trade.
  • The UK, and other governments where trading companies are registered, should hold to account firms involved in those parts of the Congolese mineral trade which help fund armed groups. This should include requesting that the UN Security Council impose targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, on these companies.

Hayman: "The UK government is currently the biggest aid donor to the DRC. However, it has done little to tackle this issue, even though it has had ample evidence of UK companies' complicity in serious abuses. That lack of concrete action is astounding given the brutality that affects civilians every day in eastern DRC.”

For further information, please contact:

Lizzie Parsons on +44 7812 072 678 or Annie Dunnebacke on +44 7703 108 401.

Global Witness report “Faced with a gun, what can you do: War and the militarisation of mining in Eastern Congo", is available here.

Summary findings from a recent Global Witness visit to eastern DRC can be found here

Global Witness response to AMC on Congo report can be found here

BBC online article, "Human cost of mining in DR Congo", is available here

In February 2007, Global Witness submitted a complaint against British company Afrimex for breach of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in connection with their trade in minerals from eastern DRC. In August 2008, the British Government issued a statement upholding most of these allegations. For details, see Global Witness press release “UK company Afrimex broke international guidelines by sourcing minerals from a Congolese war zone, says British government” (28 August 2008), available here.