photo by jon nicholson

feature story - Powering Down Corruption: Tackling Transparency and Human Rights Risks from Congo’s Cobalt Mines to Global Supply Chains

october 30th, 2018

Note: This report was published by the Enough Project.

The copper and cobalt industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) has become “a cash cow for those in power in Kinshasa and their acolytes here in the [Lualaba] province,” a miner at a cooperative in Kolwezi city told the Enough Project in February, 2018. “It’s millions and millions of dollars that they have been reaping to fill their pockets for years.” A Congolese representative from a nongovernmental organization focused on natural resource transparency further warned: “The increase in international demand for cobalt is likely to trigger a cobalt rush with more militarization of the mines and more human rights violations. … The political and security landscape being volatile in Congo, advocacy organizations and [companies] can choose to be preemptive now or wait [to take action] until the situation gets out of control.”

These observations encapsulate the precipice on which Congo’s cobalt industry rests: continue to be consumed by corrupt or violent actors—as has historically been the case for much of the country’s natural resource wealth, including cobalt—or emerge as an example that breaks the exploitation cycle and uses the mounting international market rush as an opportunity to build a responsible, transparent, and stable cobalt sector. As it stands today, cobalt benefits and motivates some of the largest corruption networks in Congo, and is an important source of finance for President Joseph Kabila’s regime. The wide spectrum of corruption in the cobalt trade combined with abuses at and around cobalt mine sites and links to state-sanctioned violence and grand corruption forms a crucial pillar in Congo’s violent kleptocratic system. It is therefore essential to tackle the underlying issues of corruption and opaque business dealings in order to support correlating goals of peace, human rights, and good governance.

Read the full report on the Enough Project website.


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