The advance of rebel forces to the outskirts of regional capital and tin-trading centre Goma, North Kivu province, is likely to disrupt tin production and trade in the area. The National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel group, led by General General Laurent Nkunda, declared a ceasefire on Wednesday after routing the Congolese army, but several people were killed in looting overnight and a number of cassiterite traders fled across the border.
"There’s no room for thinking about business when security is the priority," tin ore dealer John Kanyoni, who had crossed the border into Rwanda, told Reuters. Kanyoni said he feared Goma’s commercial infrastructure would break down. "How do you export when there is no administration there … There is a risk we’ll have to stop for a while," he said.
All tin ore export routes out of Goma into neighbouring Rwanda have been closed since the rebels launched the fresh offensive on Sunday, a member of the Association of Exporters of Minerals of North Kivu told Metal Bulletin. “Nothing is leaving Goma,” he said. “The roads are swamped with people, as well as retreating Congolese and UN soldiers: I can’t risk my drivers,” he added. The CNDP already controls the main border crossing for tin ore from North Kivu into Uganda.
The DRC government claims that the CNDP is backed by Rwanda, while the CNDP accuses Congo’s army of collaborating with another rebel group – the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which includes Hutu militiamen and former Rwandan soldiers who took part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
NGOs have accused both main rebel groups and elements of the army of profiting from the exploitation of minerals including tin. ITRI estimates that the DRC’s current tin-in-concentrate production is some 15,000 tpy, about 5% of global mine production.