We’ve all heard of blood diamonds haven’t we? They were mined out of Sierra Leone in the late 1990s and traded with Liberian leader Charles Taylor for weapons that would prolong a devastating civil war which left thousands of people dead or maimed for life. Now the issue of conflict gold is being highlighted by the Enough Project who have reported that £388 million worth of gold is smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo every year.
This makes the Democratic Republic Congo, which is two-thirds the size of Western Europe, sound like a rich country, but it is in fact the poorest country on earth, with people making an average wage of £225 per year, which equates to around £19 a month.
So how can it be the least developed country in the world with such a lucrative mineral you might ask? Well the root of the problem lies in the decade long Second Congo War, the deadliest conflict since World War Two, where over 5.4 million people died. When the war ended in 2008 it left the country in a mess with many armed rebel groups using mass rape and violence to control the country’s mines and trading routes.
There are many valuable minerals in the DR Congo but none more so than gold which can be smuggled out of the country in small quantities for large profits. The armed groups split the profits with corrupt government officials ensuring the people of the DR Congo are left with nothing.
Conflict gold mined at one of the 15 major mines across eastern Congo follows six steps in a supply chain until it reaches its final form—gold bars or jewellery. Cleaning up the trade in conflict gold is essential to finding a lasting solution to the ongoing war.
Here is the story of how conflict gold ends up in our jewellery shops: