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Global Witness press release: UN report on conflict gold

Press release

20th January 2015

Conflict gold sold on international markets despite sector clean up efforts says new UN report

Gold smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, some from rebel areas, has been sold on the international market through Uganda and the United Arab Emirates in the past year, according to a report published yesterday by the United Nations.

The investigation by the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, based on a year of research, found evidence that gold produced in mines controlled by rebel groups is sold to traders in Uganda. One of these traders officially exported the precious metal to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2014 where, according to the report, gold from Congo is sold “without any difficulty”.

“The UN report lifts the lid on the dirty mineral trade that helps prop up rebels in Congo. It brings fresh, detailed evidence of individuals and companies that are profiting right now from the illegal trade. It is a scandal that Congo’s mineral wealth continues to fund conflict more than a decade after hard evidence of this came to light,” said Nathaniel Dyer of Global Witness.

Global Witness previously revealed major failures in Dubai’s regulation of the minerals sector which increased risk of money laundering and of dirty gold from Congo and other conflict zones entering the global supply chain in 2012. The UAE has taken measures to clean up the gold trade, but these “fall short” of what is needed, according to the UN report.

In contrast to tantalum, tin and tungsten from Congo, there are no operational traceability or due diligence systems in the country’s gold sector. The UN report says that gold smuggled into Uganda in the past year included metal from mines controlled by rebels groups such as NDC, headed by Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka who is wanted for crimes against humanity, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group linked to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The Group of Experts’ report also says that coltan, a tantalum ore, from eastern Congo is smuggled into Rwanda and points to flaws in responsible sourcing schemes. It investigated two cases of “suspected smuggling” of white coltan, a type which is only produced in Congo, involving two Rwandan companies. The two companies were suspended at the request of the Rwandan government for six months from the supply chain initiative run by the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI).

Other findings of the UN report include:

  • Serious failings in the ITRI supply chain scheme known as iTSCi as investigators were able to buy the plastic tags used to certify minerals as “conflict free” in Congo and Rwanda, which would allow coltan from unknown sources to enter the supply chain;
  • Involvement of members of the Congolese army, including Colonel Mugabo and Captain Mputu, in smuggling minerals. Colonel Mugabo was initially arrested with 1,363kg of coltan in his vehicle but was later released. No disciplinary action was taken against Captain Mputu but a Lieutenant Colonel who had tried to seize the truck in which Mputu was transporting minerals was suspended.

Governments in the region have made it a legal requirement for companies to do checks on their mineral purchases – known as supply chain due diligence – but implementation is patchy. The United States has legislation in place that requires US-listed companies to check that their purchases of metals have not funded warring parties and the European Union is developing regulation on conflict minerals, although the current proposal is only for a voluntary scheme.

Hundreds of thousands of artisanal miners, or diggers, work in Congo’s mines, only some of which are controlled by armed groups. As of November, 116 mines in Congo have been validated “green” by mixed teams of validators as part of a government-led mine site checking programme, indicating that there are no armed groups present.

“Managed responsibly, Congo’s mineral riches could help bring prosperity instead of violence to one of the world’s poorest countries. Local and international companies must step up their efforts to ensure that all minerals from conflict areas, especially gold, are sourced responsibly. The Congolese government and its neighbours must protect the rights of artisanal miners and support efforts to create conflict-free supply chains,” said Dyer.

Ends

Contact:
Nathaniel Dyer, Campaign Leader, DRC
+44 (0)77 11 006 799, ndyer@globalwitness.org

Notes to editors

  1. The full report, “Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, published on-line on 19 January 2015, is available here: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/19
  2. To learn more about the proposed EU regulation on conflict minerals go here: http://www.globalwitness.org/conflictminerals/

 

Emily Norton
Global Witness
Lloyd’s Chambers
1 Portsoken Street
London | E1 8BT | Tel 020 7492 5870
www.globalwitness.org

Global Witness investigates and campaigns to change the system by exposing the economic networks behind conflict, corruption and environmental destruction.

 

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A thank you

University College London Union’s Amnesty International group has recently raised £185.80 for donation to Congo Calling. Many thanks to you all for your efforts.

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Message from Denis Mukwege to European Parliament

Sakharov laureate Denis Mukwege has called on the European Parliament to introduce mandatory conflict minerals legislation:

“Women’s bodies have become a true battlefield and rape is being used as a weapon of war,” said Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege as he accepted the 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in Strasbourg on Wednesday 26 November. Dr Mukwege was honoured by the European Parliament for dedicating his life to helping thousands of victims of gang rape and brutal sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read more in the Huffington Post and on the European Parliament website.

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Global Health Week

Our director Bandi Mbubi will be delivering a lecture to approximately three hundred students on 1st December 2014 as part of Global Health Week at Barts and London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

He will be speaking on the issues people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are facing and Congo Calling’s effort to lobby the EU for the adoption of a legal framework which requires technology and mining companies to respect human rights and stop contributing to conflict through their supply chain activities not only in the DRC but also in other conflict-­-affected areas around the world.

Please download and share this flyer (pdf; 726 kB).

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Labour press release: recycle old mobile phones

Press release

26 November 2014

Labour urges recycling of old mobile phones

Shadow Communications Minister, Helen Goodman MP, today launched a campaign to promote the recycling of old mobile phones and to call for greater transparency over tech companies’ supply chains.

Consumer demand for electronic goods has made the essential minerals used in their manufacture valuable natural resources. Sometimes the use of these minerals perpetuates conflict in mineral-rich countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, as armed groups have a financial interest in the mines. Likewise, mining can have a devastating impact on the environment, as is well documented in Indonesia.

Speaking to an audience of students, campaigners, tech companies and parliamentarians, Helen said:

“In the run up to Christmas many people are buying new mobiles as presents, but very few people know that the minerals going into their tech can have a bloody history. We are also working to raise public awareness of the environmental impact mining for these minerals has.

“It is only right that the companies profiting act responsibly and ensure they know where the minerals in their supply chain come from to limit the use of those which fuel conflict.

“Instead of simply throwing old devices away, we should all be recycling, so that the precious materials they contain can be reused and natural resources secured for generations to come. I have written to the tech companies to ask them to make this much easier.”

Ends

1. Helen has been working on the issue of conflict minerals with a range of third sector organisations such as Congo Calling and Friends of the Earth.

2. In October, Helen wrote to tech companies asking what they were doing to tackle conflict minerals. The letter has been sent to Apple, Google, Amazon, Blackberry, Nokia, Microsoft, Alcatel, HP, Samsung, Acer, LG, HTC, Huawei, Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Dell, Lenovo and the mobile network operators.

Conflict minerals

I am writing to you because the shadow Department of Culture, Media and Sport and shadow Department for International Development teams have been examining the issue of conflict minerals and the scope for recycling rare minerals. As you will be aware, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the state most frequently associated with conflict minerals, particularly the east of the country. It is rich in natural resources, in particular ‘the 3 Ts and gold’. The three Ts are tin, tungsten and tantalum (also known as coltan). Along with gold, these minerals are used in the electrical circuitry and LCD displays of everyday electronic goods such as mobile phones and laptops.

Consumer demand in the developed world for electronic goods such as those [company] manufactures has made these natural resources very valuable. These minerals perpetuate the conflict in the DRC as armed groups (including the army) have a financial interest in controlling mines. Likewise, they have an interest in keeping the eastern DRC unstable, since this allows them to retain their control over mines in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a strong, stable state.

The U.S. has led the way on regulating to crackdown on conflict minerals. Sections 1502 and 1503 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act require that any company floated on the stock exchange must annually disclose if they produce anything that needs conflict minerals to function. If they do, they must ‘provide a report describing, among other matters, the measures taken to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of those minerals, which must include an independent private sector audit of the report’. After consultation, the EU recently announced voluntary self-certification for importers of raw minerals. This has been strongly criticised for being weak and failing to tackle the issue by a coalition of organisations including Global Witness, Amnesty International and Christian Aid.

Friends of the Earth revealed the environmental impact of the demand for these minerals in their report ‘Mining for smartphones: the true cost of tin’, which detailed the devastation caused by tin mining on Bangka Island in Indonesia. As demand for these finite resource grows, more needs to be done to ensure mining techniques are sustainable and to recapture and recycle minerals from used electronics.

I would be grateful if you would write to me letting me know what [company] does (a) to ensure that the minerals used in your products are not fuelling conflict and what you are doing to ensure secure, sustainable and fair conditions along your supply chains; and (b) to ensure that when people upgrade their electronics they are helped to recycle their old mobiles, laptops etc. so that the rare minerals can be re-used.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Helen Goodman MP

Shadow Minister for Communications

 

Bonnie Burke
Office of Helen Goodman
MP for Bishop Auckland
Shadow Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries
0207 219 1443
07910 586869

 

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Visit to Glasgow University

Bandi visited Glasgow University on 29 October for their Conflict Free Campus Initiative conference and panel discussion on “Conflict in the Congo: Responses from the International Community”.

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Green team commit to conflict free minerals

The team of Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, are demonstrating their commitment to conflict free minerals by switching to smartphones from Fairphone, a social enterprise seeking to raise awareness about conflict minerals in electronics and the wars that they fuel [1]. Fairphone ensure their smartphones are made with conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Green Party has been pushing for a number of years for firm action on conflict minerals [2] and has argued that current EU proposals lack ambition and fall well short of the comprehensive and binding rules needed [3].

Molly Scott Cato MEP said:

“The extraction of minerals and resources in developing countries should lead to the improvement of lives; not used to fund or fuel conflict. The phenomenon of conflict minerals is now well-known and we have plenty of evidence to act. There can be no excuses. I am delighted my team are playing their part by switching to the conflict-free Fairphone and pleased I am part of a group in the European Parliament that is pushing for tougher legislation.”

The fact that conflict minerals fund rebel groups in some of the world’s poorest countries is well documented. They contribute to political and economic instability while neglecting workers’ rights, safety and their ability to earn fair wages. Congo Calling [4] is a charity which has been campaigning for the development of fair trade technology which uses ethically-sourced, conflict-free minerals from the DRC. Director Bandi Mbubi said:

“I am delighted Molly Scott Cato and the Green Party are pushing for the introduction of an EU-wide mandatory legal framework that compels companies which source their minerals from the DRC to carry out due diligence in order to break the link between our immense natural resources and the war there. 

“Congo Calling welcomes the Green Party’s effort in the European Parliament to introduce a robust legal framework which ensures that illegal armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other conflict-affected countries do not finance their activities through profit from the illicit trade in conflict-minerals.” 

Notes

[1] The Fairphone social enterprise focuses on sourcing conflict-free minerals direct from the conflict zone of the DRC ensuring support for alternatives to current mining practices that empower workers and improve the livelihoods of the local population. Further information: http://www.fairphone.com/

[2] http://www.greens-efa.eu/conflict-minerals-11890.html

[3] http://pr.euractiv.com/pr/timid-commission-proposals-fall-short-what-needed-tackle-conflict-minerals-104732

[4] The Congo Calling campaign was launched in the south west at TEDxExeter 2012: http://www.congocalling.org/

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Scottish Fair Trade Forum

On 6th Sept, Programme Coordinator, Miriam Gosling and Director Bandi Mbubi spoke at the Scottish Fair Trade Forum National Campaigner Conference in Edinburgh as keynote speaker. The day featured presentations from the Fairtrade Foundation on developments in the last year and their plans for the future. There was also a panel discussion on “Where next for Fair Trade? Challenges and opportunities”.

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Walk Free campaign

We’d like to bring your attention to Walk Free’s campaign to end conflict minerals. Its campaign action allows supporters to email their MEPs about the European Commission’s proposal on responsible mining, and has been endorsed by around 20 organisations.

The email content changes according to which country you select to submit the action from. At the moment there are only a few variations, but Walk Free hopes to be able to incorporate more:

  • Anyone selecting the UK will send a message to MEPs that cover their regional constituency (based on their postcode)
  • Anyone selecting Germany will send a message to MEPs that cover their regional constituency (based on their postcode)
  • Anyone selecting an EU country that isn’t the UK or Germany will send a message to a randomly selected group of MEPs that varies every time the page is refreshed 
  • Anyone selecting Italy will send a slightly varied message to their MEPs to acknowledge the Italian presidency of the Council of the EU
  • Anyone selecting a non-EU country will see the following text: This campaign does not apply in your country yet – you can still take action against conflict minerals by calling on Nintendo to ensure its products are slavery-free.
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Bandi’s talk at TEDxExeter 2014

Bandi spoke for a second time at TEDxExeter in 2014, giving an update on the progress of Congo Calling and celebrating its successes so far. Here is the video of his talk…

…and some photos from the day…

Photos are © James Millar/TEDxExeter. There are more available in the TEDxExeter collection.

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