Mining Halted in Congo

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"The mining ban is accompanied by a 'large-scale military operation.'"

The efforts of activists and the passing of the Conflict Minerals Act in the U.S. have drawn the world's attention to Eastern Congo. The human rights abuses surrounding the region's tin, tantalum and tungsten mining are atrocious and well documented. In the latest round of UN meetings, President Obama leveled harsh criticisms to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) leaders. On September 11th, DRC President Joseph Kabila banned all mining in Eastern Congo.

Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu stated, "Our war in the east, it's a war of mineral resources. When everything is well managed, there will be no more war," according to an AFP article. Kabwelulu said the problem with abuses in the East come from 'mafia groups' that are funded through the illegal trade of minerals.

The mining ban is accompanied by a "large-scale military operation." This is an attempt to eliminate any resistance to the government of the DRC in the area of Walikale—home to the largest cassiterite deposits and a FDLR rebel stronghold.

Some analysts expect the ban to increase illegal mining in the region and the smuggling of resources through Rwanda. "A clampdown on so-called 'conflict minerals' will be difficult," stated Daniel Magnowski, "because government troops are, themselves, heavily involved in the trade." Without help from the UN or the U.S., it is hard to see the conflicts stopping completely.

A 2009 senate report showed how the mismanagement of DRC's mining sector contributed to 80% of the mined resources leaving the country illegally through neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, funding the groups responsible for the human rights abuses.

The added pressure from international human rights groups, such as Global Witness and the Enough Project, as well as increased pressure from the U.S. and UN, just may be the tipping point in this long struggle.

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