Illicit gold trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to thrive, despite efforts to clean up the sector, a new report has disclosed.
Prepared by IMPACT, an independent international natural resources watchdog, the report revealed that some traders and exporters legally registered in the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda are operating “without apparent fear of sanction,” even after being publicly identified by the United Nations for contributing to the illicit trade of artisanal DRC gold.
Despite vigorous efforts by the DRC government and international actors to introduce traceability and due diligence for artisanal gold supply chains in the Central African country, the illicit trade appears to be booming at a worrisome rate.
“Only a fraction of gold production is exported legally, meaning declared to authorities with all duties and taxes paid,” IMPACT reports.
Some traders and exporters in the DRC are “pocketing massive profits” from gold smuggling, said the report, which noted it is time to bring these intermediaries out of the shadows they operate in.
Joanne Lebert, the executive director of IMPACT explained that much effort has been made to enhance responsible artisanal gold trade in the DRC, but as long as these unscrupulous intermediaries between the miners and the market operate with impunity, such efforts will be rendered futile
IMPACT also disclosed that gold smuggled out of the DRC and flowing onto the legal international gold market – into consumer products — is potentially tied to criminality, money laundering, armed groups and human rights abuses.
It asserted that neighbouring country Rwanda is the key transit hub of the gold traffic and it is from there that The DRC’s South Kivu gold is being smuggled and laundered into the legitimate international supply chain through its export to Dubai and mistaken for Rwandan gold.
In another report, the United Nations stated that the illicit exploitation of natural resources continues to be a root cause and driver of conflict in the east of the country and most of the militia groups have set aside their political demands and are involved in mineral trafficking.
IMPACT has urged the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to foster cooperation between law enforcement agencies, which could prove effective in identifying trade discrepancies and bolster regulatory controls on any gold that is reported as DRC gold.