Democratic Republic of Congo started a new mineral certification program in an effort to stop armed groups in the east of the country benefiting from the trade in tin ore, tungsten, coltan and gold.
The certificates, part of an initiative by the 12-country International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, will accompany minerals to export from approved mining sites not associated with illegal armed groups.
Mineral-rich eastern Congo has suffered almost two decades of conflict since the aftermath of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide spread across the border. More than a dozen foreign and Congolese armed groups are active in the region, some of whom help finance their activities by taxing or smuggling minerals. Members of Congo’s national army also participate in the illicit trade, according to the United Nations.
“Congo has launched its certification program and I invite other member countries to join us, to eliminate attempts at mineral fraud that pervades our region,” Deputy Prime Minister Daniel Mukoko Samba said at a ceremony yesterday in Kinshasa, the capital.
All ICGLR countries will eventually use the certificates for exports of tin ore, tungsten, coltan and gold. The certification program joins a number of other initiatives to monitor eastern Congo’s mineral trade, including a tagging project by tin-industry group ITRI Ltd.
Verification teams, which include UN and mines ministry officials, have approved exports from three mines already and will add to the list or subtract from it as the security situation changes, Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told reporters.
Congo was the world’s seventh-largest producer of tin ore in 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The country’s tin exports dropped to 4,314 metric tons last year from more than 13,000 tons in 2010, according to the Mines Ministry, amid concern by companies about buying tainted minerals.