DR Congo: Greedy Firms Fuel War Chasing Profits

LONDON, July 21, 2009 ( CISA) -The campaign group Global Witness released a report today detailing how European and Asian companies have been buying minerals from DR Congo that are funding armed groups and fuelling the deadly conflict.

The companies include Bangkok-based THAISARCO (a subsidiary of British metals group AMC), UK-based Afrimex, and Belgium-based Trademet.

The 110-page report, entitled ‘Faced with a gun, what can you do?’, details how companies are buying from suppliers who trade in minerals from the warring parties.

Many mining areas in eastern DRC are controlled by rebels and the national army, who violently exploit civilians to retain access to valuable minerals, including cassiterite (tin ore), coltan and gold. Cassiterite and coltan are used to make mobile phones, computers and other electronics, among other things.

Global Witness wrote to 200 companies and found that most had no controls in place to stop ‘conflict minerals’ entering their supply chain. It says governments, including the UK and Belgium, are undermining their own development assistance and diplomatic efforts to end the 12-year conflict by failing to crack down on companies based within their borders.

Informed by on-the-ground investigations and interviews in North and South Kivu, the report reveals that the national Congolese army and rebel groups regularly cooperate, carving up territory and occasionally sharing the spoils of illegal mining.

“All the warring parties in the DRC are systematically using forced labour and violent extortion in mining areas,” said Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness.

“It is not good enough for companies to say they buy only from licensed exporters, when they know full well that their middlemen buy from armed groups. The failure of governments to hold companies to account, of Burundi and Rwanda to restrict the trade across their borders, and of donors and diplomats to address explicitly the role of the mineral trade, have all contributed to the continuation of a conflict that has killed millions and displaced many more.”

One of the companies featured in the report is THAISARCO, the world’s fifth-largest tin-producing company, owned by British metals giant, AMC. THAISARCO’s main supplier, Congo-based Panju, sells cassiterite and coltan from mines controlled by the rebel FDLR.

Another company is the UK-based Afrimex, already found by the British government in 2008 to be in breach of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for buying from suppliers who made payments to a rebel group. The British government has yet to take any concrete action on this information.

Global Witness called on companies trading in minerals from the DRC to carry out thorough due diligence to ensure that they are not funding warring parties. The DRC and other governments should cut off warring parties’ access to the mines and to international trade routes. And home governments should hold to account their companies for involvement in the illicit mineral trade from DRC.

See the full report at: http://www.globalwitness.org