Protecting livelihoods is key to mining the DRC’s riches – by Nelson Alusala (Institute For Security Studies – September 6, 2017)

Conflict minerals can only be properly regulated if communities’ welfare is part of government planning.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the potential to become Africa’s richest economy, going by the quantities of its natural resources. At the centre of the riches are over 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1 100 types of minerals and precious metals.

But despite the DRC’s wealth, the livelihoods of ordinary citizens remain dismal. With barely any government structures in some of the country’s remote communities, people have learnt to fend for themselves. The country’s human development index dropped steadily from 105th in 1980 to 176th out of 188 in 2014. And with election uncertainties this year, the general situation in the country could worsen, according to the African Economic Outlook.

Research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) among the mining communities in South Kivu reveals critical issues at the centre of the economic well-being of such people. These small-scale or informal miners live in villages, most of them hardly accessible.

Their daily occupation entails sifting through mounds of soil in search of minerals. They sell these for a living, or simply exchange them for rare commodities such as salt, sugar and cooking oil.

In an effort to ensure that the minerals don’t finance the activities of armed groups that infest mining areas, the government and international mining stakeholders have tried putting in place several regulations. These include the Dodd-Frank act and mineral certification schemes like the Great Lakes Regional Initiative against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources (RINR).

Another traceability and due diligence scheme is the Industrial Technology Research Institute Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi).

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