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Last Updated:[04-10-2010 01:00:53 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Congo Mineral Ban Conflicts its Objective

tradenews The Congolese government's ban on mining activity since Sep 11 following increased violence and rape in Congo's eastern Walikale district, home to most of the country's cassiterite - tin ore, is believed to have left thousands out of work. The ban was initiated when the UN found about 500 people were raped in the North and South Kivu provinces during the months of July and August alone apart from numerous killings.

However, in a report by Reuters, Emmanuel Ndimubanzi, head of the mining division of North Kivu, where the industry makes up 90 percent of provincial government receipts and which is the source of most of Congo's cassiterite, said more than 50,000 people were affected. "We usually export $10mn a month in value, but this has come to a halt, and trade has slowed down ... and mining planes have stopped, so provinces are no longer being supplied with food and goods," said Ndimubanzi.

It also says the supply issues have created host of problems for many mining and mineral sourcing companies. Moreover it finds the sudden rise in tin prices in the world market is a reflection of on-going ban on mining in Congo. The price of tin on global markets climbed steadily since June, from $15,000 a metric ton to more than $24,000 this week, close to all-time highs.

The greatest worry now is whether the fight against conflict/blood minerals is working through a ban or is it bringing more misery to the people as it is imposed without a social support system for those who depend on petty mining jobs. It should be recalled that the UN repeatedly failed to subdue rebels operating on behalf of international mineral buyers in Congo, which witnessed the ugliest battle since World War II between 1998 and 2003.

According to Wikipedia, more than 5.4mn people have been killed in Congo War II since 1998, with direct involvement of eight African nations. Although the international community demands a complete stoppage of conflict minerals, extracted through exploitation, no one knows how it will be implemented as there is no certification for minerals like that of Kimberly Process for blood diamonds.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a reservoir of precious metals such as gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, and all four are critical to the manufacture of many electronics devices, including mobile phones and computers. Majority of mobile phone parts made in Asia by the US or European firms has minerals that go into the electronics, including tin, tantalum and tungsten, are sourced from places as remote as eastern DR Congo.

Tin from the war-ridden area is put into electronics; tungsten goes into filaments and the component that helps mobile phones to vibrate; and tantalum holds electrical charge. Interestingly, no-one knows why the conflict minerals have got the rightful international coverage now despite it is happening all the while even after the Congo War II came to an end in 2003.

By Jose Roy

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