Mining in Democratic Republic of the Congo Part II
4: The presence of the military
In 2015 , researchers from the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) visited 200 non-industrial mines , with a total of more than 40,000 miners, in the province of South Kivu in eastern Congo. 81 percent of these worked in places where the Congolese army was present. 3 percent worked under the supervision of non-governmental armed groups, while 16 percent escaped both forms of men with weapons in the workplace. In about two-thirds of the mines with armed presence, soldiers involved in illegal activities were reported. It could be taxation, looting, forced labor or interference in production and sales.
Miner Constantin told me about a mine he had worked in before: “We were forced to give the soldiers $ 1.50 a week. If you refused, they threw you in jail. To get out of prison, the soldiers forced you to sign a contract where you agreed to work for them for two months and give them everything you earned. ”
While offenses occur in some areas, they do not occur in others. The military is present at Jean-Paul’s mine. They impose illegal taxes, but refrain from other illegalities. Conflicts in the mine are dealt with by an elected committee that meets daily and resolves conflicts in open meetings at the construction office. Most conflicts are about petty crime or disagreements over the distribution of profits. Gangsters are fired and dismissed by an unofficial mining police force – consisting of former members of armed groups – and, if necessary, the state police.
Workers do not have the same formal rights as industrial miners – such as paid holidays, health insurance or the right to organize. But it is possible to negotiate the benefits. Earlier this year, the porters went on strike for three days due to a pay cut that the shaft leaders tried to force on them. “We are angry and we have to do something,” said one of them. The strike was successful, and the pay cut did not materialize.
It is also common for sick miners to be paid their share while they are away from work, and for groups of miners to contribute to the health or funeral expenses of others.
5: Great importance for the village economies
In the area where Jean-Paul lives , several thousand non-industrial miners were forcibly relocated in 2011 . The reason was that a large Canadian company was to build an industrial mine there. But today, some of the miners still work near the new industrial mine. Although the extraction is illegal, the offense is defended by the fact that non-industrial mining is central to the local economy. The Canadian mining company refrains from forcing them away for fear of demonstrations and social unrest.
Non-industrial mining is a major contributor to the local economy. Shaft leaders and successful gold traders earn between $ 800 and $ 2,000 a month. Many of them have moved their families to the provincial capital of Bukavu, where they live with prosperity and economic security that few in the villages are fortunate.
The wages of the workers are far more modest, but they are still absolutely necessary for the village households that receive them. A young miner explains that “with what I earn in the mines, I have already bought a cow for my father. With God’s help, I intend to get him another one. And through this work I can pay for the schooling of my two little brothers. I’m making my life better. ”
This is a common experience for many of the miners, and underscores the importance of mines as a livelihood for tens of thousands of families in rural Congo, where decades of war and shaky policies have made other work increasingly unprofitable.
This is also a useful way to look at non-industrial mining in Eastern Congo. Despite many dangers and poor working conditions, this is an industry that large numbers of poor people in the countryside enter voluntarily. The mines give them the opportunity to support themselves and their families as best they can, in societies where opportunities are otherwise limited. . In order to help the miners, this reality must be taken into account, which sometimes disappears from the aid organizations’ reports and the news items about mining in the Congo, a country located in Africa according to ezinereligion.com.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the largest countries in Africa, both in size and population (around 90 million inhabitants). The capital is called Kinshasa.
The country is often referred to as DR Congo to separate it from the neighboring Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). Both countries have got their names from the Congo River.
1885-1908: Congo is established as the Free State of Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium in 1885. He led a brutal regime with the exploitation of workers and the extraction of natural resources.
1908-1960: Ruled as a Belgian colony, known as the Belgian Congo.
June 1960: Congo becomes independent and Patrice Lumumba is elected as the country’s first prime minister.
1965-1997: President Mobutu overthrows Lumumba and rules the country, which he renames Zaire. Mobutu is forced into exile in 1997 by rebel groups led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who is appointing himself president. The country changes its name again, now to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
1996-2002: The country is ravaged by the two Congolese wars, and many thousands of Congolese readers lose their lives.
2001-2019: Joseph Kabila (son of Laurent-Désiré Kabila) rules as democratically elected president. Replaced by Félix Tshisekedi in January 2019.