Thursday, May 22, 2014

Study of natural hazards in the artisanal exploitation sites
and their impacts on their surrounding areas

Jean-Robert Nshokano Mweze

(responsible of IAPG-DR Congo)

Kivu region is located in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, in the western branch of the East African Rift. In this region there is a presence of several mineral resources. It is also a seismic zone with many geohazards. 
Very often, international NGO’s (Human rights, Greenpeace, etc.) consider the illegal mining exploitations as the cause of conflicts and war in this area. Those illegal activities are also responsible for the insecure and inconvenient situations in the region. The DR Congo is a country with great mining vocation and remarkable geological diversity, its people has the need and the right to understand the different challenges related to geological resources. So it’s up to raise the question: “What to say about the unsubstitutable links which put the life beings and their physical environment, what to say about the interest of soil and subsoil in the human subsistence and comfort?”.
In undertaking natural resource exploitation, extreme comfort and wide capitalism should not blind people. We are called to preserve nature for current times and for future generations. We have a common Earth where we exploit all the mineral resources. It’s up to everyone as human being to be aware of our responsibility regarding to the irreversible decrease of mineral resources and the constant danger of geohazards.
The project ”Earth and life” essentially aims at the strengthening of efforts in geo-education and mass geo-communication (information and sensitization), about the challenges of oil and mineral resources exploitation, and on natural hazards, in the perspective of encouraging much more a sustainable development. Through fieldwork investigations (geological survey), we are going to map the artisanal exploitation sites targeted by the project. We will proceed by sensitization and mass information about different topics of geology and mineral resources issues in the region. The fieldworks will allow us to make an inventory of different geohazards in urban and rural areas. These works will be recorded in monthly reports. Informations will be disseminated through a specific program of activities (audiovisual broadcasts, monthly reports posted to internet, conferences, workshops, etc.).

The sector of artisanal mining in DR Congo

The artisanal sector starts in the 1970s, and has an increase in the 1980s, a period during which the order law n. 82/039 of 5th November 1982 authorized the artisanal mining of precious materials. This operation should be done outside the concessions covered by exclusive mining rights.
Although the artisanal sector is often described as informal, the Congolese law includes its existence.
Chapter I of the Title IV in the Congolese Mining Code (2003) says: “In fact, when the technical and economic factors characterizing some gold deposits, diamonds or any other mineral substance do not allow industrial or semi-industrial, the Minister of Mines may erect such places within a specified area in artisanal mining area with geographical limits.”
Therefore, the Mining Act specifies that this activity should be performed in ZEA (Zone d’Exploitation Artisanale or Zones for Artisanal Exploitation) dedicated to this operation.
A ZEA, which in turn are determined by the service CAMI (Cadastre Minier in french or Mining Cadastre), is based on geological and economic criteria.
The purpose of the organization of artisanal mining is double:

  • Organize cooperatives of miners.
  • Ensure the control of the Congolese Government in the sector, in order to receive more revenue.

Its administration is entrusted to the Provincial Divisions of Mines. Its organization and management are entrusted to a public service, the Service Support and Supervision of Small-Scale Mining (SAESSCAM).

The main actors in artisanal mining activities are:

  • The diggers. They are the primary actors in the chain of artisanal mining. 
  • Team leaders. They are often the presidents of teams of diggers, working in a specific well.
  • The small traders. They are local traders who play intermediary role between the miners and the primary dealer that negotiates the price.
  • The principal trader. The boss who is able to purchase large quantities of minerals and know how to negotiate the price for the export abroad.
  • Internal air agency and ground transportation.
  • Purchase counters. They are recognized by the Congolese State as houses for mineral selling (gold, coltan, cassiterite, etc.).
  • State and NGO services. They are in charge of making the certification and establishing traceability of minerals from artisanal mining sites: Provincial Division of Mines, SAESSCAM, CEEC, BGR, Pact, etc.

(Photo: from Jambo Africa)