Global Policy Forum

Minerals in Conflict


Ceylon Mining - Source: Palagems

Countries rich in minerals such as cobalt, coltan, cassiterite, copper, and gold are often marred by corruption, authoritarian repression, militarization, and civil war. Rebel groups, governments and mining companies exploit mineral resources, fueling civil and interstate conflict as players vie for control over riches. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo have fallen victim to rebels who use revenue from minerals such as diamonds, coltan and cassiterite to purchase arms and fuel conflict. Governments often establish repressive military regimes in mineral producing regions to protect their "national interests," but local populations rarely see the profits and are subjected to environmental damage wrought by corporations. The articles and analyses below follow the dark nexus between mineral riches and bloody conflict.


Documents | Articles

Key Documents | Diamonds | Oil and Natural Gas | Water | Timber
Other Articles, Analysis and General Debate


Under-Mining Peace: The Explosive Trade in Cassiterite in Eastern DRC (June 2005)
This report reveals the concealed role of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as eastern DRC rebel groups fight for the control of cassiterite. Global Witness urges the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on cassiterite and coltan imports from Rwanda, as well as to include monitoring of natural resources exploitation and flows in the mandate of MONUC.

The Curse of Gold (June 2005)
This Human Rights Watch report "documents human rights abuses linked to efforts to control" key mining areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While Ugandan soldiers have "coerced gold miners to extract the gold for their benefit," multinational gold corporations exploring in the area have provided logistical and financial support to violent Congolese armed groups. According to the report, "the international community has failed to effectively tackle" this problem. Although the UN appointed a panel of experts to investigate the role of illegal exploitation of natural resources in the conflict, the Security Council failed to establish a mechanism to follow up the panel's recommendations.

Rush and Ruin - The Devastating Mineral Trade in Southern Katanga, DRC (September 2004)
This Global Witness report exposes the dynamics and negative impacts of the illicit trade in coltan and copper in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mining sector is largely uncontrolled and marred by a lack of transparency leading to economic and social problems that, if unaddressed, could "fuel a resurgence of historical secessionist sentiments."

Stolen Goods: Coltan and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Spring 2002)
International competition for scarce resources in general, and for coltan in particular, is a key factor in the lack of state stability and the continuation of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (SAIS Review)

Extractive Sectors and the Poor (October 10, 2001)
This report by Michael Ross of Oxfam America delineates how mineral and oil extraction lead to corruption, authoritarian repression, militarization, and civil war. The report contests the conventional economic wisdom propagated by the International Financial Institutions, which claim that developing nations prosper by extracting and exporting their oil and mineral wealth.

Risky Business: The Grasberg Gold Mine (1998)
The summary of this report by Project Underground reveals Freeport McMoRan's complicity in the Suharto regime's repression of indigenous peoples.



A Glittering Demon: Mining, Poverty and Politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo (June 26, 2008)
The Democratic Republic of Congo's vast deposits of cobalt, copper, diamonds, and gold has sparked innumerous conflicts since the Belgian colonial period. Between 1999 and 2007 militias clashed over the control of mineral resources leaving approximately 60,000 civilians dead. This article argues that large mining companies, such as foreign-owned AngloGold Ashanti, finance militias that fight over control of mines in the eastern and northern Ituri regions. The mining industry regulates most of the region's employment, allowing the companies and their militias to exploit poor workers who have no choice but to dig for minerals under the barrel of a gun. (CorpWatch)

Congo: Four Priorities for Sustainable Peace in Ituri (May 13, 2008)
In 2003, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and opposition militia groups signed a UN-brokered peace deal allowing the Ituri province limited autonomy with increased revenues from the area's rich natural resources. However, the government has reneged on the deal, by signing a secret concession with transnational corporations to drill for oil near Lake Albert. As a result, militia groups are rearming against government forces and using child soldiers to transport timber resources to neighboring countries. (International Crisis Group)

Demilitarising Militias in the Kivus: Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (May 12, 2008)
Rival militias undermine the UN peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to exploit natural resources, states the Institute of Security Studies. Due to the economic benefits of controlling mining and logging industries in the area, groups such as the Fronts de liberation de Rwanda and the Mayi Mayi in Kivu refuse to give up arms to UN peacekeepers (MONUC). The author argues that if MONUC fails to disarm the militias, civil war could return to the DRC.

D.R. Congo Reviews Mining Contracts Signed During Resource-Fueled War (May 8, 2008)
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) makes progress in renegotiating mining contracts signed during the country's civil war, says World Politics Review. Rich multinational companies signed lucrative extraction deals with the government and rebel leaders during the war in exchange for money and military hardware. Although the article praises the DRC government for reviewing these mining contracts, the author warns that the renegotiation stage is open to corruption, and that any failure to distribute the natural resources fairly could trigger further violence in the country.

DRC Mining Contract Review: Oversight and State of Play (April 2008)
In March 2008, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) published a review claiming that it would renegotiate the exploitative mining contracts signed during the civil war (1996-2006). However, this renegotiation process remains secretive, with the DRC government excluding NGOs from participating in the negotiations. This report urges the DRC to distribute money from natural resources to local communities, and to publicize government income from rich multi-national corporations. (A Fair Share of Congo)

Congo's Contract Review: Its Strategic and Economic Significance (January 17, 2008)
This Pambazuka report illustrates the strategic and economic importance of the Democratic Republic of Congo's natural resources to Western corporations. Due to vast mineral reserves, "Congo, probably more than any other African nation, has been subjected to repeated external intervention." Highlighting the role of companies such as Tenke Mining, Phelps Dodge and Freeport McMoRan, this report concludes that mining contracts amass spectacular wealth at the expense of the Congolese people.


Peacebuilding Efforts in Sierra Leone Must Address Natural Resource Governance (October 10, 2007)
In 2006, the UN Security Council requested that the Peacebuilding Commission help Sierra Leone devise a strategy for reconstruction and poverty reduction. Although this country has a long history of natural resource exploitation, a June 2007 PBS draft does not refer to this issue. In response, Global Witness submitted a report to the PBC indicating the link between the exploitation of natural resources and the root causes of Sierra Leone's civil war. It also recommended that the Commission include natural resources post-conflict management, in countries where exploitation funds conflicts.

‘Blood Minerals' in the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (June 1, 2007)
This ZNet article describes how minerals from Kivu Province mines in DR Congo finance conflict there. In particular, General Laurent Nkunda, whom the International Criminal Court indicted for war crimes in 2002, finances his military occupation of North Kivu with proceeds from the Lueshe mine's pyrochlore. Nkunda illegally exports the pyrochlore using circumventive methods similar to those used in illegal diamond trade, used for example to fund West African rebel groups.

DR Congo: Dirt Above Ground, Precious Metals Below (April 10, 2007)
A coalition of NGOs from Europe, Africa and the United States launch an international appeal, calling on the Congolese government to "clarify and revise all mining contracts inherited from the past, set up an independent mechanism to monitor the implementation of contracts, and ensure transparent and fair management of mining resources." The aim is to try to ensure that yields from the country's vast natural resources benefit the population. The appeal will be presented to the president of the World Bank, the government of the DRC and the partner countries of the DRC on April 14 and 15. (Terraviva)


War, Murder, Rape... All for Your Cell Phone (September 15, 2006)
While the democratic elections give hope for the future in DRC, peace in the country will depend on the government taking greater control over the mines. Minerals such as coltan, cassiterite, tin oxide and cobalt, heavily abundant in DRC, have a tremendous value as they are needed to make cell phones, laptop computers and other portable electronics. Poorly paid soldiers have strong incentive to gain control over resource-rich areas. Soldiers have been founded using intimidation, pillage, arbitrary arrests or torture to tax or steal what mining workers extract. (AlterNet)

The Secret War Against Defenceless West Papua (March 9, 2006)
John Pilger describes Indonesia's brutal occupation of West Papua as "one of the great secrets of our time." He describes how the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" referendum on West Papua's future was rigged to ensure that the resource rich island remained under Indonesian control. Pilger accuses the "international community" of betraying West Papua for a stake in the island's huge gold and copper reserves. Today, Indonesia protects its largest source of revenue – US mining companies in West Papua – by brutally suppressing West Papuans demands for freedom. (New Statesman)


Elections in the Congo Not an End in Themselves (December 19, 2005)
Holding elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is no panacea, warns this analyst from the International Crisis Group. To build a functioning democracy, the new government will need to address the role of natural resources in fuelling the nine-year war. By ensuring that copper and gold extraction benefits the Congolese people - not just international mining companies and local elites - the government could prevent recurring violence. (East African)

Congo and Uganda: A Rush of Gold (December 2005)
According to a political affairs officer of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, peacekeepers "don't have the means" to prevent Ugandan-backed rebels from illegally exporting gold from the northeastern region of Ituri to Europe. In addition, some ministers of the Kinshasa government are directly involved in gold trafficking and have no interest in establishing peace in the region. As a result, the unbothered rebels continue to violate the UN-established arms embargo by purchasing arms with the profits generated by the gold mining industry. (Le Monde diplomatique)

Gold Keeps War in the DRC on the Boil (March 7, 2005)
Rising prices in valuable mineral resources have renewed tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In November 2004 Rwanda threatened to invade the DRC, arguing Kinshasa harbors Hutu militias who participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Armed Rwandan-backed groups control Congolese mines and profit from the increasing value of coltan, casting doubt on Rwanda's intentions as its troops gather on the DRC's borders. Experts fear clashes between Congolese government forces and renegade factions could destroy the fragile peace process in the country. (Mail and Guardian Online)

Congo Looting Keeps East Awash in Guns (February 28, 2005)
Congolese in Northeast Ituri say the region will not stabilize as long as private entrepreneurs and military figures run the province. A lack of border controls and airspace control facilitates gun trade into the region, which has contributed to the killing of at least 50,000 people in clashes between Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. As foreign traders exploit Congo's natural resources, they fuel ethnic strife in the DRC by providing local militias with weapons in return for protection of mining businesses. (Reuters)

UK Ignored UN Report On Looting in Congo, Say MPs (February 21, 2005)
A 2002 UN Panel of Experts report charged 85 Western companies with looting up to $5 billion worth of minerals in the DRC and asked individual states to conduct their own investigations into the pillaging of gold, diamonds, timber and coltan. Despite the gravity of the charges, the British government has made "little progress in examining and resolving the allegations" and British companies involved in the scandal have yet to face any punishments. (East African)

Congo Plans to Clamp Down on "Blood" Mineral (February 9, 2005)
Kinshasa plans to halt the flow of high-tech mineral coltan, mined by rebels in the east of the country to finance and prolong local conflicts. Experts estimate coltan mining yielded an average of $20 million a month for rebels in control of the mines during Congo's civil war, and argue the mineral is a destabilizing factor in eastern DRC. (Reuters)

Unearthing the Truth: Mining in Peru (February 2005)
In the 1990s, the Peruvian government implemented a series of legal reforms aimed at attracting foreign investment in the mining sector. As a result, investment increased but the environmental and social costs clearly outweighed any benefits for local communities. This Christian Aid report calls for more stringent national and international regulation to ensure that poor communities benefit from industrial development where it takes place.


Rwanda Army Masses on Congo Border (November 28, 2004)
Rwanda has deployed thousands of troops along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), claiming that Hutu militias are mobilizing to attack. Others, however, say Rwanda only seeks to protect its economic interests in the DRC. Kigali exploits valuable minerals such as cassiterite and tantalite through close cooperation with rebel proxy force, RCD-Goma. (Observer)

Greed in a Time of Cholera (September 21, 2004)
In the town of Walikale in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the rebel group RCD-Goma controls the lucrative cassiterite trade with disastrous consequences for the local people. The work is dangerous and many are dying of cholera due to lack of clean water and available treatment from humanitarian organizations forced out by a debilitating lack of security. Walikale is a "Wild West border town" marred by a black-market economy and exploitation of people and resources, and "controlled by whoever has the most guns." (Independent)

Spurred by Illness, Indonesians Lash Out at U.S. Mining Giant (September 8, 2004)
Buyat Bay residents are fighting the Newmont Mining Corporation over environmental abuses that have lead to local diseases and deformities as well as a decline in the fish population. The fight raises questions "about how rich multinational companies - especially those that extract resources like coal, copper and gold as well as oil and natural gas - conduct themselves in poor nations." (New York Times)

Rush for Natural Resources Still Fuels War in Congo (August 9, 2004)
Exploitation of valuable minerals such as cassiterite is fueling conflict in the DRC. In Walikale, a town in Eastern Congo, Rwanda-backed RCD rebels and the Rwandan Army have developed an efficient system transporting resources out of the area and funneling troops and arms in. (Reuters)


Cellphones and Strife in Congo (December 5, 2002)
Natural resources that begin in war-torn countries often end up on store shelves in developed nations. According to the Christian Science Monitor, many people in the US are vaguely aware that the coltan in their cellphones might be linked to bloodshed in Congo.

From War Zones To Shopping Malls (October 17, 2002)
Millions are dying because insatiable consumer societies import natural resources regardless of their origins. Companies and rich nations that benefit from cheap raw materials such as coltan, diamonds and wood turn a blind eye to this humanitarian crisis. (Worldwatch)


DRC: Mixed Reaction to UN Report on Resource Exploitation (November 22, 2001)
Officials of the DRC reacted angrily to the allegation that Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia are participants in the exploitation of natural resources. They challenged the veracity of the UN report, claiming that the aforementioned countries intervened at the request of a legitimate DRC government. (IRIN)

The Looting of Uganda, Sanctions and Congo-K: Who is Who in Uganda Mining (June 6, 2001)
The proposed UN sanctions on Uganda--for looting minerals in the DRC--will likely be ineffective, as western nations have significant business interests in Uganda and western leaders and investors continue to be friendly with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. (Africa Analysis)

The Looting of Congo (May 29, 2001)
The war in the DRC serves the economic interests of some Western companies and financial institutions, criticizes this editorial of the New York Times.

UN Panel on Congo Exploitation Calls for Embargo Against Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda (April 16, 2001)
The report of the UN panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources says that the three countries systematically exploit Congo's resources like coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold and urges the Security Council to impose sanctions. It also recommends considering international prosecution of individuals, companies and government officials. (Associated Press)

US: Confronting Conflict in West Africa (March 21, 2001)
The US has been notoriously absent from the security problems of Africa, but an escalation of fighting in West Africa into Guinea - where the US has substantial mineral interests, could lead to a shift in US policy. (

Vital Ore Funds Congo's War (March 19, 2001)
The Washington Post reveals the important position of col-tan, a mineral used to manufacture cell-phones, in the financing of the war in the DRC. The business of col-tan brings even more money to the Congolese rebels than gold and diamonds.


Freeport McMoRan-A Pit of Trouble (July 31, 2000)
With the fall of the Suharto regime, Freeport McMoRan's shady dealings in West Papua were exposed to the world. The question that remains is whether the company will effectively implement its new human rights policy and pay reparations to the injured, or whether Freeport's operations will continue to be a source of violence and contention. (Business Week)

Mineral Riches Fuel War, Not The Poor (June 18, 2000)
Timber, oil, diamonds, take your pick of the natural resources responsible for fueling conflicts. This article details several different situations in Africa and Cambodia. (Observer)

Afghanistan's Emerald Heights (July 25, 2000)
"Conflict ‘Emeralds?'" The mountains in Afghanistan are being mined for emeralds to be added to the war chest of Ahmad Shah Masood, the commander of the last significant resistance to the Taliban. (Christian Science Monitor)

Irian Jaya Declared Independent (June 4, 2000)
West Papuan separatists have declared their independence from Indonesia, claiming that the 1969 UN-sponsored annexation of the province was illegitimate. Indonesia's unwillingness to allow the secession of the province is undoubtedly linked to the existence of the Grasberg mine, one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world. (BBC)

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