Earlier this month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a sobering assessment of how little improvement there has been in peace and security in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the last decade.
The report, Conflict Minerals: Overall Peace and Security Has Not Improved in Eastern Democratic of the Congo since 2014, is noteworthy for several reasons.
Informed by interviews with DRC experts (including those working with the UN Panel of Experts) and an analysis of credible conflict and trade datapoints, the GAO makes a conclusive argument that:
- Violence, as measured by metrics that include the number of security incidents and civilian casualties, has worsened;
- Conflict minerals (including gold) continue to fund instability;
- Western companies are not adequately exercising due diligence or disclosing supply chain information related to Congolese minerals in their filings to the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) as required under the Dodd Frank Act.
In the responsible sourcing eco-sphere, Congo plays an oversized role. The conflict in its eastern provinces served as the genesis for the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. Donor governments, industry stakeholders and civil society groups have invested significant time and resources trying to improve sourcing practices and find durable solutions—human, regulatory and technical—to address the very significant and real challenges at play in Congo’s chaotic mineral sector.
DRC is rightly going to continue to frame many sourcing discussions for years to come—not just in 3TG (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold) but increasingly for minerals like cobalt as green technologies, particularly in the automobile sector, gain market traction. However, at the same time, there is a growing and noticeable shift toward broadening the lens beyond “just Congo.”
Since the launch of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance in 2012, discussion topics and participation in responsible sourcing fora—including the OECD’s annual summit—have extended well beyond the confines of Africa’s Great Lakes region. The debate is now truly global, extending to every continent, and growing to increasingly focus on environmental issues—a point this newsletter has repeatedly highlighted. Non-OECD governments are joining the conversation, implementing new policies and practices that demand better corporate citizenship and oversight within their borders. This month, for example, the United Arab Emirates, announced tougher regulations for its gold sector that are more in line with OECD standards and best practices.
The sobering findings of the GAO report aside, the widening scope and adherence to responsible sourcing is a welcomed shift. Congo is a deeply complex and dysfunctional place, ruinously impacted by both Colonialism and more recent times; and while it is certainly worthy of our continued concern and attention, there is a need for industry actors (and their partners in government and the civil society) to focus their efforts in other places as well—including those which may hold more promise and potential for positive improvement.
LBMA has been giving considerable thought to this shift as we prepare to launch our ASM feasibility report at the Global Precious Metals Conference in Lisbon next month.
I will keep you in suspense for a bit longer on the contents of the report. But one recommendation the report’s authors make is that, in LBMA’s pursuit of increased ASM sourcing by GDL refiners, a focus should be placed on countries with demonstrated pro-ASM laws and policies, less conflict and greater governance stability. Several countries—Ghana, Colombia, or Nicaragua—come to mind.
This is exactly the needed and long-overdue re-imagination of the ASM sector that LBMA is calling for. Congo is one example of the ASM experience. But it is not the only one. There are several other countries (including some that are conflict-affected) that have taken different, more open-minded approaches to the sector—ones that sees artisanal miners as economic actors and realise the urgent public benefit of managing the sector appropriately.
As the GAO report makes clear, the ASM world is in short supply of success stories.
But prioritising engagement and support of pro-ASM countries—by both donor governments and industry—could bring several benefits, delivering not only greater economic rewards to public coffers and stability in mining areas, but also much needed precedents and solutions that could inform and inspire other more complex jurisdictions.
Head of Responsible Sourcing, LBMA
Responsible Sourcing News
- Mining companies pledge gold sales to augment Ghana's foreign reserves. Xinhua
- Mantashe unveils plans for “specialised police unit” as Govt seeks to curb illegal mining. Mining Mx
- Ghana Minerals Commission urged to collaborate with foreign gold licensing regulators to fast-track exports. Joy Online
- On edge: Ecuador's mining sector tense over deal with indigenous groups. BNAmericas
- Venezuela pushes out small gold miners as Maduro seeks more revenue. Reuters
- Think you know what's inside Fort Knox? The 10 golden secrets of the US Bullion Depository. Yahoo Finance
Ex-directors of gold investment firm get jail for fraudulent multimillion-dollar buyback scheme. CNA
How gold mining in Ghana is threatening Swiss chocolate. Swiss Info
Swiss gold exports to China slow but shipments to Turkey surge. Reuters
- UAE: New policy for responsible sourcing of gold published. Khaleej Times