DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Mining the Congo and Funding a War

2 January 2008
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO:  Mining the Congo and Funding a War

by Wendy Lehman

Second in a series about exploitation of DRC's resources

The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) mining industry involves a web of business, military, and industrial interests, and the average consumer.  One of the country's most valuable cassiterite (tin ore) mines is in Bisie‑tin that allows for more eco-friendly cell phones and other hand-held technology.  Mining Processing Congo (MPC), located near Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Goma, has a significant interest in mining Bisie.

The Congolese army's non-integrated 85th Brigade, run by notorious Colonel Samy Matumo, controls access to the mine.  According to human rights and news sources, military and civilian overseers have committed serious human rights abuses at Bisie such as forcing miners to carry fifty kilos of cassiterite for forty-fve kilometers, creating dangerous mining conditions, rape, and forced prostitution.  Justine Masika Bihamba, coordinator of Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violence Sexuelle in Goma, said three military heads (in the 85th Brigade) have become incredibly rich from the Bisie mine in a country where people live on $1 dollar a day.    

The Mail and Guardian on February 29, 2008 cited a group of experts' report to the UN Security Council that argued mineral buyers in DRC's rebel areas are violating the UN arms embargo and should be punished because these purchases fund rebels.  The UN-mandated group reported on December 12, 2008 that the Congolese army supports Hutu rebel forces (FDLR) and that Rwanda supports General Nkunda's rebel army.  All three forces have been cited with numerous human rights violations.  The UN report noted: "the FDLR obtains millions of dollars a year from the minerals trade, mostly through taxation of mines and traders, and that many traders are complicit since they know the gold, cassiterite, coltan and wolframite come from FDLR-controlled zones."[1] 

An MPC engineer told CPT they refuse cassiterite from Bisie because of the "political situation."  MPC Managing Director Brian Christophers said MPC has its own verification system, hasn't done anything wrong, and, "'We know exactly where our minerals come from.'"[2]  Yet, according to a CREDDHO report shared with CPT by Bihamba, MPC exported 3,395.67 tons of cassiterite from Bisie between 2003 and 2007.[3]  The 85th Brigade has controlled Bisie since 2005, according to the Pole Institute.  So why did MPC become concerned with human rights in 2008 and not in 2005, 2006, or 2007?  Further, the UN reports that MPC "assisted Rwanda's commercial military wing to funnel the Democratic Republic of the Congo's mineral wealth across the border during the war."[4]

Bihamba added that mineral traders, the Congolese military, rebels, and importers "don't want to end the war because they profit from it." 


[2]    Bavier, Joe. "Punish buyers of rebel DRC ore, UN panel says." Mail and Guardian Online. February 29, 2008.

[3]               CREDDHO, "Rapport Sur L'Exploitation et L'Exportation de la Cassiterite et du Coltan en Province du Nord-Kivu", October 2007

[4]               Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 8 of resolution 1698 (2006) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo, February 8, 2007, Pg 8