Profits and loss: Mining and human rights in Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has significant deposits of minerals and metals, including gold, copper, tantalum, tungsten, coltan and cobalt. For more than a decade the extraction of these resources has been linked to conflict, human rights abuses and corruption.
Much of the mining in the DRC is done by artisanal miners, who work using hand-held tools. Artisanal miners often receive very little for the minerals they extract and face systemic exploitation in the DRC where mine sites are controlled by powerful individuals, including political figures and armed groups. They work in extremely dangerous conditions, usually without any safety equipment. Serious and fatal accidents on mine sites are regularly reported by media and NGOs. Artisanal miners have also been subjected to threats, physical assault and ill-treatment on mine sites at the hands of the mine police, or private security guards working for those who control the sites.
The minerals extracted by artisanal miners are ultimately sold outside of the country, after having passed through a number of actors and processes, in an often complex and opaque supply chain. In recent years there has been increasing attention to the issue of supply chains and the companies and countries that ultimately receive minerals from the DRC, as these actors can play an important role in preventing human rights violations and abuses.
This report focuses on mining in the Katanga region in the south east of the DRC, where copper and cobalt are mined. Much of the DRC’s copper and cobalt goes to China. In 2012 China is reported to have imported 166,000 tons of cobalt concentrates from the DRC, which was more than 90 per cent of China’s total import of cobalt (177,000 tons). Although Chinese companies have been allocated large mining concessions since the 1990s, because of political instability these were largely dormant and much of the copper and cobalt that has gone from the DRC to China was extracted by artisanal miners.
China is set to remain a major importer of Congolese copper and cobalt. A controversial multi-billion dollar resources-for-infrastructure deal signed between a consortium of Chinese state construction companies and the DRC’s state-owned copper company Gécamines, created the Sino-Congolese mining joint venture, Sicomines. This company, in which the Chinese partners are the major shareholders, was allocated substantial reserves of copper and cobalt in the province of Katanga. Sicomines is expected to begin production in 2015.
Mining in Katanga is in transition. Although artisanal mining is still widespread, industrial mining – often involving multinational companies – is on the increase. Chinese companies are emerging as dominant players in industrial mining in Katanga with several already involved in joint ventures with the DRC’s State-owned mining company, Gécamines. Chinese investment is supported by financial and diplomatic relationships between the governments of DRC and China. As multinational extractive companies move into the area, artisanal miners have been moved off mining sites, sometimes violently. Local communities have also faced eviction to make way for mining; the manner in which some of the evictions are carried out violates international law and standards.
This report documents human rights violations and abuses arising from the operation of both artisanal and industrial scale mining, including forced evictions of communities from around mine sites and violations of the rights of artisanal miners. It looks at the responsibilities of the DRC and of the multinational companies involved directly in mining or in the supply chain. The report pays particular attention to the extent to which Chinese companies involved in mining in Katanga respect human rights in their operations. The report concludes with recommendations to the DRC, the mining companies in Katanga, and the home States of the mining companies, including China.