Shocking mining
conditions in the
Eastern DRC
Brussels, Belgium — 09 September 2013 – The European Union (EU) has announced plans for the setting of limits on the importation of raw materials coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for electronics production. quotes the EU as saying it is concerned about ‘blood minerals’ making their way to Europe. It has joined the US in targeting minerals from conflict zones like the eastern DRC.

The EU trade commissioner for trade, Karel de Gucht, said European economies needed conflict-free mobile handsets. “I know the Congo quite well. I have been there and often met with President Kabila,” said Karel de Gucht, a former Belgian foreign minister.

In 2008, de Gucht threatened to withdraw aid to the DRC if President Joseph Kabila didn’t address issues of governance. This led to a diplomatic crisis between the DRC and its former colonial power Belgium.

President Kabila declared de Gucht a ‘persona non grata.’ Since then, de Gucht no longer enjoys the good relations with Kinshasa that enabled him to secure mining licences for prospective clients in the past.

His opinion of President Kabila has not changed. And in his capacity as the EU trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, hasn’t been allowed to enter the DRC since 2010.

Now he wants to proceed with a new initiative against the intolerable conditions in the ore mines in the eastern Congo. The EU wants to emulate the new U.S. model following the import of rare metals such as coltan from the DRC.

“You need trade to survive. But sometimes it brings you into contact with conditions that you would not tolerate for a minute at home,” said De Gucht.

Militias, rebels and government troops continue to fight each other in eastern Congo.
The mines are under extremely dangerous conditions and children have to break down the mineral ores under the watchful eyes of the militias.

In the US and other industrialised nations, protest groups have been formed, calling on large companies like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung to sell products that are conflict-free.

The rare minerals from the Congo are used in the manufacture of mobile phones, computers, electronic equipment and cars.

In the US, the Dodd Frank Act requires persons or a company to disclose the source of raw materials such as tantalum, tungsten or gold from the mine to final production, especially minerals coming from the DRC.

The Federation of German Industries (BDI), has also criticised the conditions in the DRC. Ulrich Grillo who heads the federation, believes that certification of raw materials and limiting exports from eastern DRC, will not bring any meaningful change.

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