Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

The struggle of the former Zaire towards democracy and away from extreme exploitation and impoverishment has been a difficult and violent process. Mining has been a lucrative business in the Congo since colonial times, but it has also been brutal and hugely destructive of the environment and peoples' health. While mining companies maintain they can bring jobs and prosperity, it is a difficult environment in which to work ethically.

On October 15, 2002, the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo released a report, in which they called eight Canadian mining companies to account for commercial activities that were contributing to conflict in that war-torn country. It is estimated that 3-5 million people have died in the Congo in recent years due to the war.

In all, the Panel named 85 companies it considered to be in violation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises as well as 29 companies on which the Panel recommended the placing of financial restrictions and 54 persons for whom the Panel recommended a travel ban and financial restrictions.

On July 20, 2003, the UN published the responses from the parties named in the 2002 report.

Finally, on October 23, 2003 released the "final" report of the Panel, listing 125 companies and individuals listed that had been named in a previous report by the panel for having contributed directly or indirectly to the conflict in the DRC. The report noted that other companies may not have been directly linked to conflict, but benefitted indirectly from links to the main protagonists and from the chaotic environment in the DRC. For example, they might obtain concessions or contracts on more favourable terms than they might receive in countries where there was peace and stability. That report also listed cases as "resolved - no further action necessary" or "referred for further investigation" depending on responses received from those named in the previous report.

The Panel was harshly criticised for listing cases as "resolved" without having made any attempt either to resolve outstanding violations or to verify measures promised or supposedly taken to resolve specific violations. RAID (Rights and Accountability in Development) published a detailed critique on March 14, 2004 (OECD Governments Fail to Investigate Corporate Role in Congo War).