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Congo Rebels Earn Less from Conflict Minerals, Threaten Smuggling: Report

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Congo Rebels Earn Less from Conflict Minerals, Threaten Smuggling: Report

Posted by Enough Team on August 7, 2012


Contact: Jonathan Hutson, +1-202-386-1618, [email protected]

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo and WASHINGTON, DC — Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and more stringent tech industry sourcing policies have led to an estimated 65 percent decrease in profit over the past two years for armed groups in eastern Congo from their trade in the conflict minerals of tin, tantalum, and tungsten, according to a new Enough Project investigative report. However, the renewed violence by the Rwanda-backed M23 rebellion threatens to greatly increase conflict minerals smuggling.

The report, based on field interviews with 143 people in Congo and Rwanda, documents that the recent escalation of violence in eastern Congo is being driven mainly to protect economic interests, but it masks the noteworthy progress that companies and governments have made over the past 18 months to significantly diminish the ability of armed groups to generate income from conflict minerals. The U.S. Dodd-Frank Act has fostered long-term mining reforms by electronics companies and the Congolese government, and more than 100 Congolese miners interviewed by the Enough Project supported the law as a way to end slave-like conditions in the mining sector.

"The Dodd-Frank law is making a serious dent on the militias in eastern Congo, cutting their profits from the conflict minerals of tin, tantalum, and tungsten by more than 60 percent,” said Fidel Bafilemba, co-author of the report and Enough Project policy consultant. “Miners, despite their lower incomes in the short term, support the reforms that will free them from the slave-like conditions they have lived through in the mines. Companies that have profited from the trade—electronics, jewelers, tin smelters—should establish a miners empowerment fund to increase employment in the region, including micro-finance for mining communities."  

The latest round of fighting fueled by the M23 rebellion, reportedly backed by Rwanda and co-commanded by indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, threatens to increase instability and smuggling in the region. M23 and its allied militias have established control over a number of strategic locations in the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo and threaten further insecurity as well as a massive conflict minerals smuggling operation. The rebellion has slowed the first exports of clean minerals from the Kivus, but reforms are still moving forward outside the crisis areas.

“Economics are at the heart of the renewed violence in eastern Congo, and M23's latest advances indicate a move to open the floodgates of conflict minerals smuggling to Rwanda,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst and co-author of the report. “The time for robust monitoring of mines and traders is now. The Obama administration should ensure that the independent regional minerals monitoring team conducts investigations as soon as possible, so that smugglers can be sanctioned.”

According to the report, gaps in follow-up to the Dodd-Frank law must be addressed by jewelry companies and the Obama administration, as these gaps allow armed groups in Congo to continue to trade gold and smuggle other conflict minerals into neighboring countries. During the time period of 2010 to 2011, Rwanda’s mineral exports rose 62 percent compared with only a 22 percent rise in domestic mining production and a decline in Congo’s mineral exports of 75 percent.

To ensure that progress made in the fight against conflict minerals continues to move forward, renewed commitment must be made to speed up certification of conflict-free mines and increase the number of civilian mining police. To this end, the U.S. should ensure that an independent monitoring mechanism of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region is functional as soon as possible and has the ability to sanction smugglers. The U.S. and U.K. should also sanction Rwandan officials who, according to the U.N. Group of Experts report, have aided the M23 rebellion.

Read the full report: “From Congress to Congo: Turning the Tide on Conflict Minerals, Closing Loopholes, and Empowering Miners.”

View a slideshow of images from eastern Congo and Rwanda. Photos are available for media use. Please credit Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project.


Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit