A lot of gold - a lot of trouble1 June, 2012
"A lot of Gold, a lot of Trouble" is a report about the Democratic Republic of Congo, published by Diakonia and the NGO Swedwatch. The report focuses on how Swedish companies should act when doing business in areas of conflict and extreme poverty.
DRC: Infinitely rich - extremely poor
DR Congo in the process of recovering from the bloody civil war that cost 5.4 million lives. Conflicts are still ongoing, and together with them severe human rights abuses.
The country's natural assets are calculated to be worth as much as the EU and the U.S gross domestic products together, yet barely any of this favors the Congolese people. The majority of civilians live in poverty.
While international companies are investing in the lucrative mineral and gold industry, the Congolese are still hoping for job opportunities, working infrastructure, schools and health care.
Swedish company Mineral Invest
The Swedish company Mineral Invest is one of the companies who have come to the province of Oriental in eastern DRC to explore and extract gold.
Local people have great expectations for the company to develop its business and the company's website describes planned ambitious social programs. Mineral Invest describes the development shall be undertaken in close cooperation with authorities, local communities and aid organizations. However, the people next to the mining area are waiting for the promised schools, hospitals, new roads and hope for jobs.
In the report A lot of gold - a lot of trouble Swedwatch and Diakonia show that none of the projects described on the company website have been implemented, in addition to a road maintained fairly well.
Neither has Mineral Invest established any agreement with representatives from the local community over what investments they consider necessary or desirable.
Shortcomings in transparency
The study shows how the money Mineral Invest pays Congolese government, through the joint venture agreement it has with the state company SOKIMO, is difficult to trace. It is thus unclear whether the investments in any way benefits the local Congolese community, which in theory is what is supposed.
The lack of transparency is more serious due to the well-known link between conflict areas and extraction of minerals.
Conflict minerals fund violence and abuse
Profits from the so-called "conflict minerals" have previously funded both rebel groups and the Congolese army.
Violations of human rights have previously been recognized both internationally and nationally in connection with mineral extraction, particularly in eastern Congo.
Despite this, Mineral Invest neither have developed, or prevented, the risk that it can be linked to human rights violations, hazardous working conditions or negative environmental impact.
Recommendations for Mineral Invest
In the report "A lot of Gold, a Lot of Trouble" Diakonia and SwedWatch give several recommendations for Mineral Invest, such as:
- End its co-operation with the Congolese military officers hired as a security company
- Follow the UN guidelines on the safety and protection of human rights
- Establish a plan to help the local miners operating in the area to replace the use of mercury and improve their working methods.
- Follow the social and environmental commitments that the company itself puts on his website.
- Follow the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Voluntary guidelines for companies and human rights.