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Ban on 'conflict minerals' would hurt Congo's poor

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Sophist, Apr 10, 2009.

  1. Sophist

    Sophist JF-Expert Member

    Apr 10, 2009
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    By: Reuters
    8th April 2009

    KINSHASA - Banning minerals exported from violence-ravaged eastern
    Congo would threaten the livelihoods of a million miners and could
    worsen the world's deadliest conflict, a study said on Wednesday.

    Democratic Republic of Congo's resource-fuelled 1998-2003 war and the
    humanitarian disaster it sparked have killed an estimated 5.4 million
    people in the last decade, more than any other conflict since World War II.

    The country's eastern borderlands, which remain a patchwork of rebel and
    militia strongholds, are the source of the majority of its tin,
    tungsten, and coltan ore.

    The metals are essential components in household electronics such as
    mobile phones and computers. Last week the Enough Project, a U.S.-based
    human rights watchdog, called upon electronics manufacturers to trace
    the minerals they use in order to prove they are not funding the violence.

    However, critics of the campaign say the additional costs involved in
    mineral tracing would amount to a de facto ban on Congolese exports.

    A study funded by the British government, the London School of Economics
    and Belgium's Ghent University published this week found such measures,
    although well-intentioned, would likely do more harm than good.

    "The 'blood diamond' scenario where soldiers force workers to mine at
    gunpoint is largely absent in eastern Congo," Nick Garrett, an analyst
    with Resource Consulting Services and one of the study's authors, said
    in a statement.

    "Most miners choose to mine for lack of livelihood alternatives, so
    stopping or disrupting the trade in minerals will hit the most
    vulnerable the hardest, and in all likelihood exacerbate conflict
    dynamics and retard development," he said.

    Rwandan Hutu rebels involved in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and responsible
    for a vicious campaign of rape in eastern Congo are among a number of
    armed groups the report said use revenues from illegal taxation of
    minerals to fund their activities.

    But shutting down the mineral trade completely would only push them into
    other sectors, possibly increasing instances of extortion and abuse of
    civilians, and drive them into new geographical areas, Garrett said.

    Mining is one of the few remaining economic activities in eastern Congo,
    where infrastructure is in ruins and about a million people have fled
    fighting since late 2006.

    Research found that in Congo and neighbouring countries, around 1
    million people, including those directly involved in the trade as well
    as their dependents, are supported by mineral exports from eastern Congo.

    Out of work miners, the report said, would become vulnerable targets for
    recruitment by armed groups.

    The study recommended an active engagement with mineral traders that
    would allow the sector to come under government regulation, boosting tax
    revenues to cash-strapped Congo's state coffers.

    It warned that punitive measures, such as trade sanctions, risked
    driving the trade further underground while doing little to curb violence.

    Congo's copper, cobalt and diamond industries are already suffering from
    the impact of the global economic downturn, which has seen dozens of
    mining companies close up shop and lay off workers amid a drop in world
    demand for mineral exports.

    Around 300 000 informal miners have already been left jobless by the
    economic downturn in southern mineral-rich Katanga province alone,
    according to provincial authorities.
    Edited by: Reuters