DR Congo update
DR Congo update
20th February 2008
Attempts by police to remove smallscale miners from a state mining concession, ends in tragedy.
"Conflict" tin ore, controlled by a renegade brigade of the Congolese army, is allegedly smelted in Asia and ending up in brand name products around the world.
Riots hit Congo copper town after police kill miner
by Joe Bavier, Reuters
7th March 2008
KINSHASA - Hundreds of artisanal miners clashed with police in one of Congo's biggest Copper Belt mining towns on Thursday after police shot one of them dead during an eviction from a state mining concession, residents said.
The clashes began after police started clearing artisanal miners off a concession near Likasi belonging to state mining company Gecamines, said Dikanga Kazadi, interior minister in the provincial government of Congo's copper-rich Katanga province.
"There were artisanal miners on a Gecamines site. This morning Gecamines decided to expel them by force," he said.
"A police officer unfortunately shot at one of the miners. It was an accident, though the officer is under arrest," he told Reuters.
Kazadi said the miner had been killed, but could not confirm reports cited by residents that the victim was a 10-year-old boy. Child labour is widespread in the vast country's large artisanal, or informal, mining sector.
Residents said police were forced to abandon the eviction from the Kamatanda mine, 3 km (2 miles) from Likasi, in order to secure the mayor's office in the centre of town.
"The crowd got very angry and started throwing stones and shots were fired ... We did see youths throwing stones at a line of police in front of the mayor's office," said one expatriate resident, John Skinner. "The situation is now pretty calm."
Likasi is one of the three biggest mining centres on the Congolese side of the Copper Belt, which straddles the southern border with Zambia for several hundred kilometres (miles).
Artisanal miners in the town dig for heterogenite, an ore containing both copper and cobalt, which they sell on to mainly foreign independent minerals dealers who include a fast-growing number of Chinese metals traders.
An estimated 150,000 people work in Katanga's informal mining sector, often working in parlous conditions in mines lacking reinforced galleries or proper ventilation. Fatal accidents are common.
Gecamines, which is being restructured and is overhauling its operations after decades of mismanagement and systematic looting under late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, often licenses artisanal miners to work on inactive concessions.
It was not clear whether the miners evicted on Thursday had permits to work the Kamatanda site. Gecamines officials in Katanga and in the capital Kinshasa could not be reached for immediate comment.
Congo rebels cash in on demand for tin
by Nicholas Garrett and Harrison Mitchell
5th March 2008
Some of the world's best known consumer electronics companies are examining their supply chains after discovering that tin from a mine controlled by renegade soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo is reaching international markets.
The Bisie mine, situated a day's walk into the Walikale district of North Kivu, is the Congo's biggest tin ore mine. It is controlled - in contravention of the country's mining regulations - by the renegade 85th brigade of the Congolese army led by Colonel Samy Matumo.
An investigation by the Financial Times has found that tin ore from the mine is reaching smelters and solder manufacturers in Asia via a network of local middlemen and international traders. Household brands such as Hitachi, Microsoft, Pioneer and Samsung are investigating whether they could be sourcing tin solder from these companies.
Congo's mines ministry last month suspended all activities in the Walikale district to "restore order," leading to a rise in world tin prices. Prices for tin ore, or cassiterite - used to make tin solder used in the manufacture of electronic components - reached a high at the London Metal Exchange of more than $18,000 per metric tonne.
The war in Congo between 1998 and 2003 was perpetuated by the fight between Congolese armed factions and armies from neighbouring countries for control of mineral wealth. In an ominously familiar repeat of this pattern, the 85th brigade has been funding itself through the sale and control of the cassiterite trade at Bisie.
A recent report commissioned by the British government's Department for International Development estimated that Bisie produces 10,600 tonnes of Congo's total exports of 16,870 tonnes. While this is a fraction of total world production of 260,000 tonnes, the revenues generated are significant.
During a recent visit to Bisie, the FT learnt that 85th brigade soldiers are confiscating cassiterite mined by artisanal miners, some of whom are as young as 12. The brigade then sells the cassiterite to other traders. It also generates revenue at illegal road blocks along mineral transport routes.
The experts that investigate diversions of natural resources in Congo for the United Nations stated in February that "individuals and entities buying mineral output from the eastern part of the DR Congo with a strong rebel presence are violating the sanctions regime when they do not exercise due diligence".
Enrico Carisch, a former member of the group of experts, commented that the "uncontrolled trade and lack of due diligence in the trading chains of cassiterite is directly linked to the disproportionate militarisation of North Kivu", where renegade soldiers threatened last year to upset international efforts to restore peace.
Cassiterite from Bisie is bought by middlemen linked to exporters and international traders who sell the ore on to smelters that purchase on the open market. At the smelters, the tin from North Kivu is mixed with other tin, refined and sold either directly to solder manufacturers, or through international metal exchanges. Finally, tin solder is sold to manufacturers for use in the production of electronic gadgets.
Alexis Makabuza Ruzenga, a purchaser and exporter of tin ore from Bisie and founding shareholder of the co-operative Comimpa that works at the mine, told the FT that he sells tin ore directly to the Malaysia Smelting Corporation Berhad, based in Malaysia.
In an e-mail to the FT, the company denied that it had traded with him. However, it confirmed that it sources approximately 12 per cent of its tin ore from Congo. Other smelters in Asia also purchase cassiterite from North Kivu. They then sell refined tin to solder manufacturers, including Japan-based Nihon Superior, which confirmed that it supplies companies including Hitachi, Kenwood, Panasonic, Pioneer and Sony.
In response to the FT's queries on its supply chain, Microsoft stated that "we don't have visibility into the activities of commodity suppliers participating at the beginning of the hardware supply chain".
Samsung said that it had now requested that its component providers investigate their suppliers of tin and stated that it is working closely with the Electronics Industry Code of Conduct Extractive Work Group to find the best solution to the problems of sourcing from countries such as Congo.
Hitachi stated that it "will review levels of compliance amongst its primary suppliers with these guidelines and ensure that business practice standards are met by all companies operating within the supply chain".
Pioneer stated that it "takes any alleged breach of the code of conduct seriously and will investigate further".
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008