Investigating DR Congo’s illegal gold trade – by Lisa Dupuy and Klaas van Dijken (Deutsche Welle – January 8, 2019)

The conflict-ridden African nation is rich in gold — and gold smugglers, who are often linked to rebel groups. But tracing commercially available gold back to illegal mining operations is easier said than done.

The current mood in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is tense. A general election finally took place this month after a two-year delay and the country is now holding its collective breath as it awaits the results. Meanwhile, armed groups in the north-east continue to take advantage of a weak government and meddle in the minerals trade.

Since 2017, we have been investigating the impact of illegal gold mining in the region. Our initial research led us to Obima Faustin, a hustler who says he will tell us more about the illegal gold trade. But just organizing a time to interview him proved difficult, as he repeatedly insisted on changing the time and place. Finally, we meet him in the outskirts of Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Faustin — who is half-Congolese and half-Ugandan — is dressed in a denim suit. He’s obviously not lacking in self-confidence. No one in Kampala knows more about gold than him, Faustin assures us. Back in the DRC, he says, he has “an entire community” mining for him. But Faustin prefers not to call himself a gold trader or smuggler. His role is less concrete: “I point people the way to where gold can be found.”

Faustin also knows how to get it onto the market. The demand for gold is higher in Uganda than in the DRC. “No one looks at Kinshasa [the DRC capital] for help in the trade,” says Faustin. “The city is far away from where the gold is mined.”

Along the northeastern border region, most of the gold mines are small in scale and don’t rely on heavy machinery. In the DRC, this so-called artisanal form of mining is allowed if the miners hold a valid license from the Ministry for Mining.

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