An independent group of experts from the United Nations is calling for more transparency in gold trade in the wake of increased smuggling and violence in the gold mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN experts have announced that governments need to make their gold trade data public to help combat this menace after dozens of people were killed during a gold mine raid in Northeast Congo.
According to a report from the organization, armed groups and security forces have been involved in interethnic fighting over control of gold deposits. There has also been widespread smuggling of minerals across the country’s border with Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda, the report said.
The report also stated that Chinese nationals are involved in the illicit trade. Earlier analysis by Reuters found that the Middle East is also a major player and acts as a gateway to the United States, Europe and beyond. The independent panel of experts recommended that member states publish their total production statistics on the export and import of natural resources on a yearly basis. This includes gold, tourmaline, and coltan, the report stated. Tourmaline is a gemstone while coltan is used in the development of smartphones and electronics.
Although Eastern Congo has been wracked with conflict for the past couple of decades due to an abundance of minerals, steadily increasing gold prices have encouraged informal gold mining and fueled the crisis. The report documented multiple cases of forced labor, rape and murder by rebel groups fighting for control of the gargantuan Mongbwalu gold deposits in the Ituri province. The fighting is mostly between a rebel group calling themselves Zaire and rebels from the Cooperative Development of Congo (CODECO).
In late 2021, CODECO killed two Chinese nationals and kidnapped eight others who were involved in the gold mining industry, forcing the Chinese embassy to issue a warning to all its citizens to leave the eastern provinces. At the time, the UN stated that such attacks by CODECO had resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians in Djugu, located in Ituri, and displaced thousands from their homes.
In February, another attack by the CODECO militia took the lives of at least 60 people living in a displaced people’s camp in Eastern Congo.
For this reason, transparency in the global gold trade would make it easier to track where gold was sourced from, whether it’s from legitimate miners such as Royal Gold (NASDAQ: RGLD) or armed groups that participate in kidnapping, murder and smuggling.
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