The Formalisation of Artisanal Mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda
The formalisation of the mining sectors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda offers a compelling parallel to the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT). Both are relevant to governance in weak or fragile states, respond to the need to ensure socially and environmentally responsible sourcing of natural resources, and both resources have funded conflict– and in the case of the DRC, still do.
Industrial mining dissolved in the eastern DRC in the 1990s, due to the instability of world markets, the failure of the state and the Congo wars, and mineral exploitation became exclusively artisanal. Since then, mineral production and trade have played an important role in financing armed groups and consequently prolonging insecurity. The central government’s lack of control over the eastern part of the DRC, including the artisanal mining sector, offers an opportunity for all armed groups (state as well as nonstate) to profit from the mineral wealth. Because artisanal mining is mostly informal, it is difficult for the government to gain a hold on the sector, and to effectively tackle the ‘conflict mineral’ phenomenon. The government also misses out on a significant portion of tax revenues from the sector.
Yet, the informal and opaque nature of the sector and its role in prolonging insecurity does not necessarily mean it is wholly criminal and chaotic. Despite the involvement of armed groups, including state actors, artisanal mining is essential for local livelihoods, in an area where few alternative sources of income exist. It has been estimated that more than 500 000 miners may be working in the eastern DRC, who in turn support a wider community. The artisanal mining sector also constitutes an important source for the flow of cash into many communities.
Although the DRC’s 2002 Mining Code created some provisions to formalise the artisanal mining sector, very little has changed. Actors in the mineral chain, including miners, local traders and exporters, see little incentive to enter the formal sector. Insecurity, the tax burden, a lack of state investments and the low number of official artisanal mining zones, are the reasons most often given to explain the disincentive to act within the formal sphere. Consequently, considerable mineral production leaves the country without being registered.
These exports are transported eastwards to the seaports of Mombasa in Kenya, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. From there, the minerals are increasingly transported to southeast Asia, where they are refined and used for the production of electronic components and hard metals for heavy industry.
Since 2008, legislators, governments, multilateral organisations and industry organisations have made several other attempts at formalising the artisanal mining sector in the DRC and neighbouring countries, including Rwanda. This report offers an overview of all major upstream initiatives trying to ensure that mineral extraction and trade is not tainted by conflict in the DRC and the African Great Lakes region.
Three different approaches have been identified: 1) certification schemes – such as the Certified Trading Chains initiative, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region Regional Certification Mechanism, and the DRC National Certification scheme; 2) traceability systems – mainly the traceability scheme designed and implemented by the International Tin Research Institute; and 3) due diligence measures – efforts at enhancing private sector accountability carried out by the UN Group of Experts on the DRC and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.