(By Alicia Aleman Arrastio)
There is a big gap between a formal law approved in the European Parliament and effective rights being granted on the ground. That gap is as wide as the existing physical, emotional and even ontological distance between the spotless EU Parliament and the muddy ground of a mine site in eastern DR Congo. That gap can be partially closed by ensuring that some practical accompanying measures to the recently approved EU regulation on conflict minerals are implemented.
According to a recently released report by the European Network for Central Africa (EURAC), there is a need to distinguish between two big goals: i) changing the sourcing practices of European companies and ii) improving the local economic and security conditions of Congolese people. The accompanying measures are aimed at the second goal. A previous step is to acknowledge the vital role that artisanal mining plays in the local economy of eastern DR Congo.
Artisanal mining is just there. It won´t disappear just because we may think it is a muddy, risky, and dirty sector, low in capital and technology, and extremely complicated to manage. It may be anachronic to have people digging tin and tantalum with almost their bare hands in the times of the Internet and the 4.0 economy. As citizens of the world, this is profoundly paradoxical and even disturbing. But it is the reality of our common home. We have a responsibility to reflect and act upon it.
As EURAC suggests, the artisanal mining sector should be considered a legitimate economic sector in eastern DR Congo. Should a proper political framework be established, the artisanal mining sector could contribute positively to local development. The EU accompaying measures should serve to strenghten the local actors to combat fraud, support the local governance of the mining sector and promote political dialogue with the Congolese government and with other countries in the Great Lakes region.
You can access EURAC’s executive summary in English for more information.