Fiston and Joseph, the miners | Congo's ethical mineralsTuesday, February 14, 2017 Emmanuel Freudenthal/IRIN
The activists seeking to solve Congo’s problems through “ethical” electronics consumption do not intend to make miners lives harder, but at Kisengo and other mines in the region the effects of Dodd-Frank section 1502 are hard to ignore.
The impacts of the conflict mineral laws on livelihoods “may have been unintended, but they were not unknown”, pointed out Ben Radley, a PhD researcher on the issue.
The draft of Trump’s executive order justifies suspending 1502 on the grounds of the “loss of livelihoods” faced by artisanal miners and the “compliance costs” to companies.
But in 1502’s absence, “all these people who trade conflict minerals… could come back,” said Delly Mawazosesete, a Great Lakes researcher based in the eastern city of Goma. “On an economic level, this will be good. But for human rights and prevention of armed conflicts and their consequences, this will be bad.”
But Laura Seay, a US academic who has been critical of the impact of 1502, believes any suspension will be largely symbolic. The spread of conflict mineral laws regionally and internationally means little will change “for the big corporations who operate multi-nationally”, she told IRIN.
Fiston has a university degree, but there are no jobs for people without the right connections. He’ll keep digging in the hope of buying a house one day. So far, he barely finds enough gold to survive day by day.
The supply chain of Congo’s industrial gold is already hermetically sealed, but artisanal activity could be targeted whenever the next phase of international efforts against conflict minerals begins.
A kilo of gold is more than 1,000 times more valuable than a kilo of coltan, making it lot easier to smuggle and harder to trace. Conflict-free gold would require an even more secure supply chain, tightening the noose further on traders and miners alike.
What Fiston doesn’t know yet is that a company affiliated with MMR is coming to Kamoko. Like Congo’s other industrial goldmines, it will produce perfectly conflict-free gold in a tightly controlled environment, but the operation will require far fewer hands. Their operation will likely displace him and all the artisanal miners currently eking out a living here.