Bisie. A one-year snapshot of the DRC’s principal cassiterite mine (2011)

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Much has happened in the mining sector of Eastern DRC over the last year. President Kabila imposed a ban on all mining activities last fall, during which production fell considerably. As soon as the suspension was lifted in the spring of this year, the major global electronic companies stopped buying minerals from the region, provoking a de facto embargo on Congo’s minerals with detrimental effects on the sector. At the same time, the Congolese government has taken major steps to restructure its army in the east of the country. These different decisions in the mining and security sectors have affected the nature and volume of minerals production and export and have reconfigured the security situation in the region. The consequences of these actions are discussed and illustrated with the use of the most important and well-known cassiterite mine in North Kivu called Bisie.
Bisie shows first that production fell significantly during the ban, but mining activities unquestionably continued, as satellite imagery indicates. Second, despite the ban’s focus on ending the involvement of military and civil authorities in the illicit exploitation and trade of minerals, certain military units strengthened their grip. Third, while the regular army withdrew from many mining sites as a result
of military restructuring, armed groups sometimes filled the void, increasing widespread insecurity. Fourth, the de facto embargo has decreased the potential profit for armed groups and corrupt military units, but it has also left many miners unemployed, increased smuggling, and undermined the continuation of important government and industry-led due diligence initiatives.

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