Gold Drives Congo Conflict, Says Report
By Alex Johnston On October 25, 2012 @ 8:14 pm In Africa | No Comments
The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent descent into violence is fueled by gold, which has become the most lucrative source of income for regional militants accused of human rights abuses.
A report released by the Enough Project, which has monitored the human rights situation in the Congo, found that $600 million worth of gold leaves the country each year, and much of the proceeds are going back to armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country near Rwanda and Uganda.
Gold, which has skyrocketed in value in recent months, is easier than other minerals to smuggle out of the country. “Conflict minerals,” often used to fund violence and insurrection—tin, tantalum, and tungsten—are increasingly difficult to smuggle. Recent U.S. legislation has restricted their use by technology companies; greater supply-chain transparency is now required.
Although use of conflict minerals has been restricted, the market for conflict gold is thriving.
The gold is smuggled via briefcases to neighboring countries and from there it is transported to Dubai. After that, the gold “is either processed at a refinery (smelted) to be sold in Europe, or it is made into jewelry for sale in the Middle East, China, and India,” the report stated.
Some 80 percent of the gold lands in Swiss banks, held in vaults for jewelers and investors. Other uses of the gold include electronics, central-bank purchases, dentistry, and industrial uses.
The M23 rebel movement, which is suspected to be supported by the Rwandan government is trying to re-establish its gold trade. It is fighting the Congolese army for control of parts of the North Kivu Province, which has an abundance of gold, timber, and other minerals.
The movement ran a gold-smuggling operation that was disrupted last year, but it is building alliances with other warlords in the region who have a handle on gold smuggling.
Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda is the leader of the M23 rebels. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for using child soldiers under the age of 15, and fostering rapes, murders, sexual slavery and persecution.
“As the price of gold has hit record levels over the past five years, new gold mines filled with child miners as young as 8 years old have sprung up in Congo, and armed groups are fighting over mines and trading routes,” Enough Project said.
The gold mines in eastern Congo are among the worst places on earth to work. The mines do not have health safeguards and hundreds of workers are killed every year in accidents. Children, because they are small enough to fit into mineshafts, are frequently used, Enough Project said.
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