Global Witness’s 2009 report showed that European and Asian companies, including Bangkok-based THAISARCO (a subsidiary of British metals group AMC), UK-based Afrimex, and Belgium-based Trademet bought minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that funded armed groups and fuelled conflict.
The 110-page report, entitled ‘Faced with a gun, what can you do?', details how companies are buying from suppliers who trade in minerals from the warring parties. Many mining areas in eastern Congo are controlled by rebels and the national army, who violently exploit civilians to retain access to valuable minerals, including cassiterite (tin ore), coltan and gold. Cassiterite and coltan are used to make mobile phones, computers and other electronics, among other things.
Global Witness wrote to 200 companies and found that most had no controls in place to stop ‘conflict minerals' entering their supply chain. It says governments, including the UK and Belgium, are undermining their own development assistance and diplomatic efforts to end the 12-year conflict by failing to crack down on companies based within their borders.
Informed by on-the-ground investigations and interviews in North and South Kivu, the report reveals that despite being on opposing sides, the national Congolese army and rebel groups, in particular the FDLR, regularly cooperate with each other, carving up territory and occasionally sharing the spoils of illegal mining. It warns that the recent integration of another armed group, the CNDP, into the national army will make it easier for the former rebels to get ‘in on the act' of exploiting the mines.
"Natural resources are not on the table of topics in peace talks. Almost every other issue is. Yet it's one of the keys to resolution of the conflict." UN official, Goma, 22 July 2008.
US conflict minerals law
In 2010, US Congress passed a landmark law requiring companies to determine if their products contain one or more of four minerals sourced from Congo or its neighbours.
Reform in the Great Lakes
Momentum generated by the passage of Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act has led to domestic reforms in the Great Lakes region’s mineral sector.
What is Supply Chain Due Diligence?
Unless companies make sure they are trading responsibly, they risk funding serious abuses overseas.