A recent report issued by the United Nations (UN) group of independent experts said that governments should improve and publish their gold trade data, to help eliminate smuggling and violence around mines, and the trading of unethical gold extracted from areas of armed conflict.
“Ethical gold” means that the gold mined is not associated with human rights abuses, bloody conflicts, or environmental degradation.
The UN report documented the inter-ethnic fighting over gold, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the widespread of the mineral trade involving armed groups and security forces across the Congo borders with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Experts also traced the gold to Dubai and India, with the Chinese participating in the trade as well.
The report recommended the countries to publish, on a yearly basis, complete production statistics, and complete and disaggregated statistics, on the import and export of natural resources, including gold, coltan and tourmaline.
Congo’s natural resource trade has fueled conflict in its mineral-rich east for more than two decades, but high gold prices since 2020 have led to a surge in informal gold mining.
The violence has been particularly acute around the massive Mongbwalu gold deposits in Congo’s Ituri province, where rebels from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo, or CODECO, which says it represents the interests of the Lendu community, have fought with a rebel group called Zaire, which says it represents the Hema community.
The UN experts documented multiple rapes, killings and forced labor by the groups.
CODECO also kidnapped eight Chinese nationals involved in gold mining for about a month at the end of 2021, causing the Chinese embassy to advise its citizens to leave Congo’s eastern provinces.
The mines ministry responded by prohibiting the involvement of foreign nationals in artisanal mining, which makes up a large portion of the gold production in eastern Congo.
Congo Gold Raffinerie Sarl is set to launch the country’s sole gold refinery this year in the eastern city of Bukavu, and its owners told the experts that it will source gold only from “credible cooperatives” and “green” sites approved by the government that have no links to armed groups.
The company told the group it hoped to refine around two tons of gold monthly.
Contributed by Nada Mustafa