The Guardian (article here) has described how the US conflict minerals legislation aimed at damaging Congolese militias has inadvertently created significant negative impacts. The law’s supporters claimed that it would weaken militias by cutting off their mining profits, but according to interviews with miners, community leaders, activists and officials, as well as recent visits to four large mining areas, the legislation set off a chain of events that has propelled millions of miners and their families deeper into poverty. In 2010, before the law passed, miners sold a kilogram of ore from the mines for $7, around 60% of the value of the tin they produced, and scores of buyers came to Luntukulu in South Kivu for minerals which were exported to smelters around the world, from which US companies purchased. Now, miners at Lutunkulu, which remains a mine outside the ITSCI Programme for reasons relating to concession rights, get only $4 for a kilo of tin, or less than 30% of the metal value. In Luntukulu village leaders said that more than a dozen out-of-work miners joined the Raia Mutomboki militia. “If we were earning more money from mining, I would not have entered the militia,” said Kabesha, a 16 year old who left two years ago after his father could no longer make enough money from the tin mine, and could no longer pay for school. When he joined, he was handed a rifle and taught to shoot. Within months he was looting villages and fighting government forces and other militias. With less money flowing in, shops in Luntukulu have closed. Many people struggle to feed their families through farming. “If Obama’s law wasn’t signed, the ban would not have existed,” said Waso Mutiki, 41, president of the miners’ co-operative in Luntukulu. “It destroyed everything.” Supporters of the American law say the plundering of minerals is a key stimulant of the conflict. They say the legislation has spurred measures by corporations and African governments to help end the illegal trade. But even some of the law’s biggest proponents say the Obama administration and tech companies should have provided aid as the legislation was being implemented. “Four years went by with almost no support for Congolese miners,” wrote the Enough Project, a powerful activist group in an open letter published on 30 October. It added that American and other donors had only recently set up aid programmes, “but they have yet to be felt by mining communities”.
Obama’s conflict minerals law ‘has destroyed everything’
Dec 5, 2014