Mining Halted in Congo

Critical Metals

Tantalum mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo was halted on September 11, and is slated to resume in early October. What does this mean for the tantalum market as well as the ongoing human rights abuses that cloud over the industry as a whole?

By Michael Montgomery—Exclusive to Tantalum Investing News

The efforts of human rights groups and the passing of the Conflict Minerals Act in the United States have drawn the eyes of the world toward Eastern Congo. The human rights abuses surrounding the mining of tin, tantalum and tungsten in the region are atrocious and well documented. In the latest round of UN meetings, President Obama even leveled some harsh criticisms to the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On September 11,  DRC President Joseph Kabila banned all mining in the eastern region of Congo. The shut down affects the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema,  most notably known for human rights abuses.

Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu stated, “Our war in the east, it’s a war of mineral resources. When everything is well managed, there will be no more war,” according to an AFP article. Kabwelulu added that the problem with abuses in the East come from ‘mafia groups’ that are funded through the illegal trade of minerals.

The ban on mining activities is also accompanied by a “large scale military operation.” This is an attempt to eliminate any resistance to the government of the DRC in the area of Walikale. This region is home to the largest deposits of cassiterite, and a stronghold of FDLR rebels.

There are analysts who expect that the ban will only increase illegal mining in the region and the smuggling of resources through Rwanda. “A clampdown on so-called ‘conflict minerals’ will be difficult because government troops are themselves heavily involved in the trade,” stated Daniel Magnowski for Reuters. Without help from the United Nations or the US, it is hard to see the conflicts stopping completely.

A 2009 senate report showed how the mismanagement of the mining sector in DRC contributed to 80 percent of the mined resources leaving the country illegally through neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, funding the groups responsible for the human rights abuses.

The added pressure from international human rights groups such as Global Witness and the Enough Project, as well as increased pressure from the US and the UN, just may be the tipping point in this long struggle. The next, and most obvious, of solutions is to find new large deposits of these minerals outside of the DRC, shutting down the demand for conflict minerals.

Tantalum Mining News

The equity research organization, Resource Capital Research released a report that anticipates a shortfall of tantalum and other minor and rare metals. “The forecasts were based on expectations of increasing intensity of use in new or high-tech applications across all manufacturing sectors, as well as on related concerns about security of supply for manufacturers,” stated Esmarie Swanepoel for Mining Weekly.

Noventa Limited (LON:NVTA) announced that it had discovered a sizeable tantalum discovery on its Marropino mine in Mozambique. “The current results indicate that the Discovery is significant, that the tantalum could be economic to mine and could provide at least twelve months of feedstock for the Marropino plant substantially increasing the life of this mine,” according to the press release.

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