Foreign companies are conniving with armed militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo to smuggle gold worth millions of dollars, according to Bloomberg.
In a report published on Tuesday by the Global Witness – an advocacy group based in London – a Chinese company that operates gold-dredging boats in eastern DRC is said to have smuggled illegal gold worth $17 million between 2014 and 2015.
The report further accuses the Chinese company of providing at least two assault rifles and a sum of $4,000 to militia groups in the region. The armed groups are also reported to have extorted at least $25,000 a month from artisan diggers.
According to Bloomberg, the illegal trade in gold in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues despite numerous international regulations designed to sanitize the sector.
Some of the international laws governing gold trade include Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines and the US Dodd-Frank Act, all of which were designed to regularize trade in conflict minerals.
While traceability programs and due diligence have reduced trade in precious minerals such as tantalum, tungsten, and tin, no such programs have been established to curb trade in illegal gold, which is more expensive and easy to transport.
This is seen as the major contributor to the ongoing problem of illegal mining in eastern DRC, which ultimately serves as the lifeline of most armed groups in the region.
The United Nations voiced similar concerns last month, accusing Congolese exporters of not following due diligence requirements such as sourcing their gold from licensed, conflict-free mining sites.
The international organization also termed the lack of a proper tractability program for gold as another major area of concern.
Correlation between Illegal Gold and Conflict in DRC
In a report published last year by the Enough Project, trade in illegal gold was cited as one of the main obstacles to peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring countries.
“It provides a significant source of income to armed actors, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Mai Mai Sheka factions and Congolese army commanders, whose troops kill and sexually abuse civilians with impunity,” the Enough Project reported.
According to the UN, artisan miners in Congo, who normally use shovels and pick-axes, produce between 8 and 12 tons of gold every year, much of which is smuggled out of the country.