The Democratic Republic of Congo has banned tin mining in the Walikale district of North Kivu, the largest tin producing region of the country. Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told reporters in the provincial capital Goma yesterday that all mining in the district was to be halted because of lack of security.

At least 80 soldiers have died in the region, which accounts for more than half of the country’s output, Kabwelulu told Bloomberg News yesterday. He didn’t specify the period in which the deaths occurred. “All mining sites have to be closed without delay,” Kabwelulu said.

According to a Reuters report, the Walikale district produces most of North Kivu’s cassiterite, as well as smaller amounts of diamonds and gold. North and South Kivu exported a total of 7,000 tonnes of cassiterite in 2006, according to mining authorities, although industry experts estimate the real figure was closer to 12,000 tonnes, because a large amount of exports were undeclared. The experts contacted by Reuters noted that past efforts to exert state control over Walikale have failed. North Kivu has been the scene of more than a decade of conflict, with the government army and various illegal armed groups vying for control of lucrative mines.