Photograph — London Mining Network

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided $3.7 million to support the fight against illegal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The funding, which was awarded to U.S.-based Pact, will be used to validate sustainable projects at mine sites in North and South Kivu provinces.

According to USAID’s Country Director for DRC, Paul Sabatine, validation is the “initial step in combating illegal activities in the mining sector including child labour, working with armed groups and violating human rights.”

DRC has for many years recorded several illegal activities carried out by armed groups in the country’s artisanal mining. Perpetrators profit from the minerals through raiding of mines, illegal taxation or collaborating with smugglers.

Some of the broader offences include trading minerals for weapons and ammunition, killing people, engaging in child and forced labour as well as extensive human-rights abuses against civilians such as sexual and gender-based violence.

To counter these atrocities, Pact will make sure that the mines have the necessary legal authority to operate and that no armed group is present. This is reportedly the first step in ensuring minerals are sourced responsibly in a conflict-free environment, and that they contribute to peace and stability.

Moreover, the donation by the U.S. agency demonstrates America’s interest to amplify its role in advancing economic prosperity by investing in the country’s mining sector, U.S. Ambassador to the DRC, Mike Hammer, said.

“To increase the presence of U.S. companies in the DRC which are committed to improving the local communities in which they work, we must ensure mining sites are operating legally and transparently,” Hammer said.

Since 2015, USAID-funded validation processes in the DRC have led to reliable sources of conflict-free minerals, the East African reports. Out of 3,000 known artisanal mining sites, USAID has supported the validation of over 500 sites for conflict-free tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold (3TG). Also, more than 3,600 tonnes of conflict-free minerals have been exported from validated mines site raising over $90 million for Congolese firms.

DRC has vast natural resources and its mining plays a significant role in the global production of copper, diamonds, gold, tin, coltan, tantalum and cobalt. Globally, the country has the largest coltan reserves and is the biggest producer of cobalt ore while some $24 trillion untapped mineral deposits lie underneath the nation’s vast lands. 

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