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World DRC illegal mining the dangerous first link in gold supply chain

23:05  14 september  2020
23:05  14 september  2020 Source:   msn.com

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Illegal mining has been ravaging our planet for decades. Not only is illegal mining riskier from a safety perspective for those who choose to participate, but it encourages reckless behavior and leads to outcomes that have negative long-term consequences. Illicit mining activities don’t follow the same

Democratic Republic of Congo – Despite the joint report released by human rights groups Amnesty International and Global Witness in April which claimed that 79% of companies required to report on their use of minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ) were failing to do so

Illegal small-scale gold miners in DR Congo, such as those who were killed when their makeshift mine collapsed last week, are the often-exploited first link in a supply chain that extends to Dubai, according to experts.

a group of people standing next to a child: The bodies of 22 artisanal miners have been recovered after torrential rain flooded their mine in the east DRC town of Kamituga © STRINGER The bodies of 22 artisanal miners have been recovered after torrential rain flooded their mine in the east DRC town of Kamituga

The bodies of 22 artisanal miners have been recovered as of Monday, a resident at the scene told AFP, after torrential rain flooded their mine in the eastern town of Kamituga three days before.

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Illegal mining is mining activity that is undertaken without state permission, in particular in absence of land rights, mining licenses, and exploration or mineral transportation permits. Illegal mining can be a subsistence activity, as is the case with artisanal mining

Working conditions are dangerous , often with no safety equipment or structural support for the tunnels. The lawsuit alleges that the companies “are knowingly benefiting from and providing substantial support to this ‘artisanal’ mining system in the DRC .

The mining town's mayor has said 20 local families have reported missing loved ones.

Rescue efforts continued on Monday to find any survivors of the mining disaster, which are all to common in the vast central African country's volatile east.

The "diggers", as the artisanal miners are known, were searching for gold at the site of a subsidiary of Canadian gold mining company Banro.

Banro announced last year it was suspending its operations at the site in the South Kivu province.

DR Congo's artisanal miners risk their lives in dangerous mines to extract gold and sell it to local traders.

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The gold mining and trading activities are controlled by the armed groups and their business allies. The U.N. panel of experts on illegal exploitation in the Congo reported that the complexity of Human Rights Watch researchers traced the trade in gold between the local buyers in Mongbwalu and Durba

CBS News traveled to the DRC to follow the complex supply chain . As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, it's been two years since that damning Amnesty report was published, but the DRC is a country embattled in conflict, and it is difficult and sometimes dangerous to report from there.

"In Kamituga, you can find 300 purchasing counters," said Raoul Kitungano, of the Congolese campaign group Justice Pour Tous (Justice for All).

These traders then export the gold to bordering countries -- mainly Burundi and Uganda.

The trade almost entirely escapes the Congolese authorities, a blow in a country of huge mineral wealth where 72 percent of the population live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank.

- Smuggled to the Middle East -

A United Nations expert report published last year said "a senior official of the mining administration in South Kivu assessed that about 300 kilogrammes (660 pounds) of undeclared gold transited each month" through the provincial capital Bukavu.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Rescue efforts continue to find any survivors of the mining disaster © STRINGER Rescue efforts continue to find any survivors of the mining disaster

"But provincial government statistics showed about five kilogrammes a month on average," the report said.

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In the DRC , poverty existing next to massive known metal and mineral reserves in vast and unsecured mining zones compounds to create common illegal artisanal mining In its first published standalone Human Rights Report (2018), Glencore addresses the challenges of operating in the DRC directly.

Deploying soldiers to clear tens of thousands of illegal informal miners from mining concessions is a new approach by the authorities in Democratic . The risk of ending up with Congolese cobalt mined by children in dangerous conditions has already prompted some car companies to look for alternatives.

A lawyer specialising in mining, Me Lambert Djunga, emphasised how the miners are exploited.

"Local traders resell the product of the work of poorly paid artisanal miners to cross-border traffickers, who in turn illegally export the product mainly to Bujumbura or Kampala," he told AFP.

The Burundian and Ugandan capitals are home to trading posts that then sell the gold on "at high prices to the Gulf monarchies or to Europe," the lawyer added.

The trade route he described was matched by the UN report, which said that "most Congolese gold was smuggled through neighbouring countries to Dubai as the main destination".

Djunga said the gold found in these makeshift mines represents 25 percent of industrial production in DRC's gold-rich regions -- South Kivu and particularly Ituri.

There is a staggering disparity between what the "diggers" are paid and what the gold is ultimately worth.

Gold prices have soared during the coronavirus pandemic as investors seek a safe haven, hitting an all-time high of $2,000 per ounce last month.

- 'At the mercy of traffickers' -

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A landslide that occurred at a gold mine in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC ) has claimed the lives of at least 16 people and injured Maniema province Governor Auguy Musafiri was quoted by Reuters as saying: “There was an accident at the Kampene mine , and for the moment we

and abetted” a supply chain for cobalt — a metal critical for smartphones and electric vehicles — that forces children to work in dangerous conditions in the DRC . The mining industry has been making efforts to improve the traceability of cobalt. For example, Glencore joined the Responsible Sourcing

As well as gold, the Democratic Republic of Congo also has huge reserves of cobalt, copper and coltan.

The World Bank estimates that 10 million people -- 12.5 percent of the 80 million population -- in DRC "derive their livelihoods from artisanal and small-scale mining".

The loss in potential value from the gold in these eastern areas, which are riven by poverty and grinding conflict between armed groups, could be immense.

The UN report said it "documented that some armed groups continued to finance their activities through illegal mining, thereby contaminating the supply chain".

After Friday's Kamituga disaster, President Felix Tshisekedi said he asked the government to "take strong measures so that such tragedies are not repeated".

The public service Saemape is supposed to provide "technical and financial assistance" to mining cooperatives.

But Justice Pour Tous's Kitungano said Saemape "has failed in its mission", and called for reform to close the "many loopholes".

Lawyer Djunga had another suggestion.

"I invite the authorities to allow the Central Bank of the Congo, like it did under (former dictator) Mobutu Sese Seko, to buy artisanal production from real artisanal miners, instead of putting them at the mercy of these traffickers who pay them almost nothing compared to the selling price," he said.

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Gallery: AP PHOTOS: llegal gold miners ravage Brazil's rainforest (Associated Press)

Men search for gold at an illegal gold mine in the Amazon jungle in the Itaituba area of Para state, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. It’s part of a gold rush that started in 1984 after the precious metal was discovered in the region, where around 30 tons of gold worth some $1.1 billion are illegally traded in the state of Para annually, according to National Mining Agency estimates, or about six times more than the amount legally declared. (AP Photo/Lucas Dumphreys)

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