U.S. pressed to control DRC mineral exports
A congressional watchdog agency said the U.S. government must do more to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo regulate and control its trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, the proceeds of which help perpetuate armed conflict in the African country.
In particular, tin, tantalum and tungsten follow a supply chain that includes mining by hand, selling to small-scale traders, carrying by porters, transporting by truck or plane to the border, and selling to trading houses for export. Actual volumes and values of these minerals are scarce, but annual exports in DRC-origin gold could be more than $1.24 billion, or about 40 tons.
'The minerals transit DRC's neighbors, such as Rwanda, and most are processed in Asia and used in technology products, such as mobile telephones,' the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday. Most of the gold is smuggled out of the DRC and ultimately used by the jewelry industry.
'Significant challenges, which are yet to be addressed, exist to monitoring and controlling the minerals trade, including tracking the mine of origin,' GAO said. 'For example, many mines are in remote areas, lack road access, and are occupied by armed groups, making it challenging to monitor mine activities. Tracking the origin of minerals will rely on DRC mining officials, but these officials suffer from a lack of skills and from corruption.'
The State Department, along with the United Nations, has tried to help control DRC's illicit minerals trade, but most efforts are still in their early stages.
GAO said the State Department should do more to update its map of DRC mines and armed groups, and provide 'concrete, actionable steps to help control the minerals trade, including addressing lack of security, governance and infrastructure' in the country.
It's estimated that by 2004 about 4 million people have died in DRC due to armed conflict.