Belgium’s International Peace Information Service (IPIS) has launched a public platform for reporting incidents in small-scale mining communities. The platform registers incidents in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This system will help make gold supply chains in the DRC more transparent. To support the project, IPIS got a subsidy from the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals (EPRM).
The platform uses a website which the public can access to give companies an overview of incidents in Congolese gold mines. This first step towards a transparent gold industry is necessary because the European Union’s (EU) Conflict Minerals Regulation will apply from 1 January 2021. This new law requires companies to prove their gold does not come from mines in conflict situations.
In small-scale mining, miners use hand tools to extract minerals such as gold, tin, coltan and tungsten. These materials are often used in mobile telephones, laptops and chargers. The work is extremely dangerous and is mostly done by minors, so child labour is common.
In the DRC, gold mining is the least regulated of mineral extractions. Still, the situation has improved a little bit in recent years. These days, for example, all mine workers must be members of a mining cooperative. These cooperatives protect the miners’ interests and ensure good working conditions and prices.
System for reporting incidents
“Many cooperatives do not operate properly. Members are unfamiliar with the laws. The cooperatives are sometimes more interested in personal gain,” says Eric Gobbers, IPIS project coordinator. “In 2018, we started a project in the eastern DRC aimed at changing this. We organised training courses for the members of 7 mining cooperatives. Also, we are setting up a system for reporting incidents within the gold mining industry. This way, we hope to strengthen mining cooperatives and local NGOs and improve the position of the miners.”
Anyone who is a victim or witness of incidents related to a mine can now report the matter by mobile phone. The person who submits the report receives a text message with a few questions about the incident and the people involved.
IPIS publishes this information on a digital map on a public website. Local authorities, international organisations and companies can view this map. These organisations can then decide which steps to take to prevent accidents or unfair circumstances. Gobbers: “This information makes local authorities more aware of the need to improve working conditions and look for solutions.”
IPIS and EPRM
IPIS is an NGO that studies problems related to small-scale mining operations in the eastern DRC. To support this work, the organisation relies on subsidies from national governments and international organisations.
EPRM is one of the organisations providing a subsidy. EPRM promotes the supply of responsibly extracted minerals from conflict zones. The programme supports companies that actively look for risks in their production chains and thus fulfil their duty of care better. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency carries out the EPRM programme and runs various projects involving the mines.