Congo Coltan in the Kivu Region, DR of Congo

Persistent illegal Coltan mining in DR of Congo, using of child labour force and increasing biodiversity loss and environmental risks

The Congo is a land at the centre of numerous conflicts generated by the competition to exploit its rich forest and mineral resources. The mining of Coltan, an essential mineral for the hi-tech industry used in mobile phones and electronics, has not benefited local communities - on the contrary, their lands have been seized, Coltan smuggling likely provides income for the military occupation of Congo and the proceeds of mining have financed civil war, the environmental impacts are negative and citizens’ rights are seriously at risk, not to forget children’s labor is largely common. Eastern Mountain Gorilla populations are also now endangered as miners kill the gorillas for bushmeat. The Initiative by 2004 by RAID and Friends of the Earth US to render chemical North-American multinationals accountable didn’t succeed. The multiple issues around the Coltan mining in the DR of Congo are hard to challenge due to the political very precarious situation of the country and the persistent denial by the international community to face the problem.
Basic Data
NameCongo Coltan in the Kivu Region, DR of Congo
CountryCongo, Dem. Rep.
ProvinceKivu region
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesRare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsFrom 64 to 80 percent of the worlds coltan is found in the Congo. Around 1,500 tons of the precious material were illegally exported from Africa in late 1998 until the Summer of 1999. People in the Congo were still dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month in 2009.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population80 percent of total population.
Start Date1995
Company Names or State EnterprisesEricsson from Sweden
Sony from Japan
Swissair from Switzerland
Ashmore International Energy (AEI) from United States of America
NOKIA from Finland
Sabena from Belgium
Cabot Corporation from United States of America
AVX from United States of America
OM Group from United States of America
Eagle Wings Resources International from United States of America
Trinitech International from United States of America
Vishay Sprague from United States of America
Relevant government actorsGovernment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersIUCN - Switzerland, OECD Watch, Friends of the Earth US, Right and Accountability in Development (RAID)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Genetic contamination, Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Development of AlternativesThe end of the civil war and the retrieve of the lands to they initial owners, the development of the mine activity in good work conditions.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The extraction of Coltan continues financing civil wars and the repression of the native population.
Sources and Materials

Research and Information visit to the Republic of Congo. IWGIA. Ed. IWGIA. 2005.

The Curse Of Gold: The DemocraticRepublic of Congo. Human Rights Watch. Ed. Human Rights Watch. 2005.

Erasing The Board: Report ofthe International ResearchMission into Crimes UnderInternational Law CommittedAgainst the Bambuti Pygmiesin the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Minority Rights Group International. Ed. Minority Rights Group International. 2004.

Rush and Ruin. The Devastating Mineral Trade in Southern Katanga, DRC. Global Witness. Ed. Global Witness. 2004.

Elikia. Storie dal Congo. Frazzetta, Andrea; Massarenti, Joshua. Ed. Terre Di Mezzo. 2007.

Lalba della Democrazia Viaggio nel Congo che cambia. Meandri, Eugenio. Ed. EMI. 2007.

The Political Economy of the Great Lakes Region of Africa:The Pitfalls of EnforcedDemocracy and Globalization. Marysse, Stefaan; Reyntjens, Filip. Ed. Palgrave Macmillan. 2005.

Congo-Ruanda Burundi-Le parole per conoscere.Touadi, Jean-Lonard. Ed. Editori Riuniti. 2004.

Stolen Goods: Coltan and Conflict in the DR of Congo, Dana Montague (PDF)
[click to view]

UN Report on the Illegal exploitation of natural ressources in DR of Congo
[click to view]


FoE US & RAID vs. Trinitech - Case overview, OECD Watch, August 2004
[click to view]

Photo Report at Luwow mine, Dailymail
[click to view]

Issue: US companies & illegal resource exploitation in DRC, OECD Watch
[click to view]

Coltan, Gorillas and cellphones
[click to view]

Congo's coltan rush, BBC News, 01/08/2001
[click to view]

Media Links

Congo, le miniere di coltan (images only)
[click to view]

In Focus: Congo's Bloody Coltan (movie in English)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Mugisha, a 12 year old working in a coltan mine, Numbi, DR Congo Copy rights: Carlos Villalon /
[click to view]

Artisanal young miner searches for coltan, in the Masisi territory of the DR of Congo Copyrights: Lucas Oleniuk, The Toronto Star
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update22/12/2015