close
close

Kinshasa wants to restrict the trade in ‘blood minerals’

By AGGREY MUTAMBO

By PATRICK ILUNGA

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has protested the alleged fueling of conflict on its territory by multinationals buying ‘blood minerals’ to fuel energy and digital transformations.

Kinshasa has accused US smartphone giant Apple of paying for minerals without critically examining suppliers.

The accusation is not the first by Kinshasa against outsiders for fueling the war in eastern DRC, but this time the Central African country has formally warned Apple against “using minerals from national mines that are illegally exploited and fueling the war.” .”

Kinshasa relied on details from a new report by the expert members of the International Justice Taskforce’s strategic coordination. Their report, Blood Minerals-Le blanchiment des 3T de la RDC par le Rwanda et des entités privies, highlights the serious human rights violations suffered by people in the mining areas in the east of the country.

Read: M23 rebels claim control of the mining town of Congo

Based on the report, the DRC’s lawyers, Amsterdam & Partners, sent Apple a formal notice and at the same time asked a series of questions to CEO Tim Cook.

Advertisement

They claimed that “it has become clear to us that, year after year, Apple has sold technology made with minerals sourced from a region whose people are devastated by serious human rights abuses.”

They accused Apple of relying on minerals “tainted by the blood of the Congolese people.” The company has three weeks from April 22 to respond, the legal team argued.

Apple’s situation seems familiar: numerous companies have been accused of sourcing products from contaminated suppliers, including smelters that have direct contact with rebel groups in the DRC.

And because they pay for the minerals supplied by the rebel groups, they are believed to indirectly give the groups the power to continue fighting for control of those mines.

“Numerous international observers and non-governmental organizations have shown that the illicit trade in these blood minerals substantially sustains a widespread money laundering enterprise,” said Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.

Apple rejected the allegations and said it routinely conducts independent audits of its suppliers. Apple had previously indicated in an annual report that as of December last year, all suppliers had no direct or indirect benefits from the ongoing war in eastern DRC.

“While Apple does not directly source, procure or source primary minerals, we are committed to meeting and exceeding internationally accepted due diligence standards for primary minerals and recycled materials throughout our supply chain.”

Read: The DRC mine uses technology to curb the illegal mineral trade

Apple said the code and responsible sourcing require suppliers… “across our supply chain to identify and assess a broad range of risks beyond conflict, including social, environmental and human rights risks.”

The Congolese government demanded “clear answers from Apple and its subsidiaries in France” within three weeks.

The April 25 press release states that if the responses expected from Apple and its subsidiaries are not satisfactory, Congo’s appointed lawyers “may take appropriate action.”

Persistent concerns

According to the DRC government, Apple uses the 3T minerals, “purchased mainly in Rwanda, in its products, even though Kigali has almost no production of these minerals.”

The DRC reinforced another report from the Global Witness, a watchdog that often studies corruption in supply chains. According to the recent report, the natural resources of the DRC’s provinces attract “all kinds of predators, from armed groups to cowboy companies.”

The background is the exploitation of 3T ores: tin (cassiterite), tungsten (wolframite) and tantalum (coltan). The metals produced by smelting 3T ores are widely used in electronic equipment such as mobile phones, computers and other smart tech gadgets, as well as in automotive and aerospace systems. The illegal mining of these minerals is fueling the war in the DRC, Global Witness concludes.

According to Global Witness’ 2022 report, a key player in Rwanda’s ITSCI (International Tin Supply Chain Initiative) launch program estimates that for years only 10 percent of the country’s mineral exports had been mined on its territory.

But Global Witness also accused some Congolese army officers of participating in illegal mining activities in the restive provinces of eastern Congo.

“Members of the national army have long held coveted positions that allow them to control areas with lucrative mining reserves. Although they are prohibited from participating in the mineral trade, there is ample evidence that officers of all ranks have been illegally involved for decades.” Global Witness wrote in the 2022 report.

Read: DRC returns mineral shipments from the Chinese company with high radiation levels

For almost thirty years, the east of the DRC has been undermined by local and foreign armed groups fighting the DRC army. In February this year, Rwandan President Paul Kagame admitted that Congo’s natural resources were being plundered, but denied that smugglers were in Rwanda. He acknowledged that Rwanda is only a transit zone.

The final destinations of these illegally exploited minerals include Dubai and Russia. He said if Rwanda tried to stop these people, accusations against his country would multiply.

The DRC is not the only country affected by conflicting mineral traders. Last month, the US and European Union launched the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP) Forum, which aims to involve more countries in assessing what they call the Critical Raw Materials Package (CRM), to ensure supply chains flow freely are from “bad” raw materials. suppliers.

The Forum defined CRMs as indispensable for a wide range of technologies needed by strategic sectors such as net-zero, digital, space and defense.

But the Forum itself is meager. The MSP was launched in 2022 and included Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, UK, US and EU.

Last month, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Uzbekistan joined. While both the US and EU say the country will serve as a new platform for cooperation on crucial raw materials essential for the global green and digital transition, it rules out major mineral sources such as the DRC.

Officially, however, the Forum is listed as a gathering place for “resource-rich countries and countries with high demand for these resources.”
Some experts say the Forum may be a good move, but it alone won’t solve problems like those in the DRC, especially because the supply chain is full of informal dealers.

“The Minerals Security Partnership is quite a voluntary step, but the US and EU must follow it up with concrete actions to punish conflicting gold and mineral trafficking networks that continue to smuggle from Sudan, DR Congo and elsewhere, and beyond. robust investments in responsible mineral trade,” said Sasha Lezhnev, policy advisor at anti-graft watchdog Sentry. The East African.

Read: The DRC is planning an overhaul of joint ventures in copper and cobalt

“These include high-level diplomacy to formalize and legalize artisanal and small-scale mining and help artisanal miners access credit.”

Jose W. Fernandez, the US Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, admitted that the MSP forum can only function through cooperation.

“An effort like this will only succeed if we work together, and if we work together as equals,” he said in a video statement last month.

It does not specifically mention conflict minerals, but principles it believes will help address the gas war. These include environmental conservation, involving local communities and authorities, ethical business practices, safe working conditions and transparent business operations.