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Gold production as a pathway to peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Supporting small scale gold mining cooperatives made up of war affected people to produce more environmentally friendly & ethical gold

Photo of Dylan Mathews

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Supporting war affected people in Eastern DR Congo to produce more environmentally friendly & ethical gold as a way of consolidating peace, protecting the environment and generating sustainable income

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

Peace Direct works with local organisations worldwide to stop violence and build sustainable peace.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

The project idea is new for Peace Direct. However it builds on an existing piece of work that we launched several years ago when we helped local organisation 'Centre Resolution Conflits' (CRC) in Eastern Congo to establish a gold cooperative made up of ex-combatants.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

There are 3 interlinked and urgent problems: 1 - artisanal miners need a viable and sustainable livelihood as they live in extreme poverty; 2 - current gold production is damaging the environment; 3 - there is an urgent need to help ex-combatants reintegrate into their communities and build peace.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Phase 1: In-country beneficiary feedback, risk assessment and planning (May-June 2017). Phase 2: Purchase of equipment and training of 2 cooperatives in financial management, production methods, conflict resolution, negotiation etc (July 2017 – July 2018). Phase 3: Scale up of program to other cooperativs in Eastern Congo. Phase 4: This will focus on working towards fair trade gold certification, which if achieved, will be the first of its kind in DR Congo (July 2018 – December 2020)

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Peace Direct is the project lead. Centre Resolution Conflits (CRC), our local partner in Eastern Congo, will provide much of the training and support to the cooperatives. Greg Valerio (expert in ethical gold production) will provide training in gold production and technical advice to CRC.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Program/Product/Service Design

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Iterate or improve on my product/service

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We plan to measure the results in the following ways: Peace: the number of ex-combatants who join the cooperatives and who have improved skills for managing conflicts non-violently; number of community members co-existing peacefully Planet: the reduction in the use of mercury in target communities; quality of water sources; health of target populations Prosperity: income of co-operative members; number of meals eaten per day; % reduction in extreme poverty

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

The project idea has not changed during this phase. So far we have been able to solicit feedback from the gold cooperative members through CRC who have met with and spoken to a sample of the members. During the meeting, co-operative members were very excited about the prospect of enhanced gold production as well as more environmentally friendly gold production.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

We plan to run a workshop in Eastern Congo to answer the following questions: - How scalable is this idea? - How to eliminate the risk of child labour being used? - How many ex-combatants and war affected people could benefit, if funds were secured to support additional co-operatives and purchase the necessary equipment? - Who are the potential spoilers (including local militias) and how to mitigate risks?

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

In early June as part of the beneficiary feedback and improvement phase, we asked our local partner, Centre Résolution Conflicts (CRC), to hold a consultation with miners and other key stakeholders in Ituri province, DR Congo. 30 leaders and representatives from four different mining cooperatives attended the consultation/workshop. These four cooperatives represent 1,260 miners who support their families, totaling 6,300 people. The mining representatives at the workshop were extremely enthusiastic about the project as they recognized the damage that they were doing to the environment as well as the low gold yields and poor income that they were receiving. They felt that this was a very innovative idea which has not been tried in DR Congo before - blending peacebuilding with environmental protection and sustainable livelihoods. They confirmed that 60-70% of the co-operative members were ex-combatants, while another 20% were seriously affected by the conflict and require some form of psychosocial support. Some key findings from the workshop include: Women and children in the mines The workshop participants estimated that around 35% of the miners were women and 35% of the total mining population were children. One of the discussions about the new production method was that child labor would be eliminated from the mining process, which is a huge benefit to the community. To support this, we would also ensure that all children could return to school. The workshop participants also discussed how more war widows could join the cooperatives so that they could receive a better income. We agreed at the workshop that women should be supported, with the exact % currently being determined. Security situation The miners reported that the security situation is currently ‘very calm’, as a result of the state authorities restoring the security forces and local police. It will be important to keep local security authorities informed of any changes to the security situation of the mines. The miners felt that it was unlikely that local people would cause a problem to the mines as the project is community based and will benefit the local communities. Finances Miners are given loans (with an interest rate of 5% - 10%) from the local registered gold buyers which is repayable in the gold they collect. Small quantities of gold are sold to these local gold traders. To help the gold miners receive a better price for the gold, we will ensure that the gold can be sold in larger markets such as Bunia where 1kg of gold can fetch $55,000 compared to $40,000 locally. In addition, the gold consultant estimates that the improved gold production method can yield 25-30% in gold output, which is a significant increase in income for the miners. Likely number of beneficiaries The initial plan is to support two cooperatives, with 680 members (supporting 3,400 family members in total). If support to these cooperatives is successful, we plan to scale this up to other cooperatives, thereby reaching a minimum of 1,260 miners (6,300 family members) and potentially many more, funding permitting. If achieved, Fairtrade certification will take a minimum of two years but will provide an additional market premium for the gold as well as a 'social premium' in the form of funding for community infrastructure. We also aim to use this for our advocacy as we believe that this approach to gold mining can be replicated to other parts of Eastern Congo, where hundreds of thousands of people still live in abject poverty as artisanal miners. Therefore, this project has huge replication potential. In addition, as small scale and artisanal mining provides livelihoods for 100 million people worldwide, use of environmental gold production techniques which will increase gold output offers hope to millions of people worldwide. Finally, we have discussed with our technical advisor the distinctiveness of the technology that will be used for the gold extraction process. The technology to produce gold without the use of mercury and which results in a higher output of gold has been developed in South Africa. However its use has not spread to many countries, because small scale/artisanal miners cannot afford the capital investment. However, given that the technology is environmentally friendly AND produces a higher gold yield, we are also looking at this project as an important demonstration project for organisations/INGOs working to alleviate poverty for small scale artisanal miners, not only in DR Congo but around the world.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

In answer to the questions from the expert feedback phase: 1. One expert noted that 'Re-integration initiatives will be successful if the broader community would also be prepared to accept combatants. In this case - success would depend on how the broader community and small scale mining cooperatives will fully accept the ex-combatants as (productive) members of the society. Adequate personal preparation (trauma healing) on the part of the ex-combatants will also need to be provided to help them to this transition.' Our response: the model for all co-operatives will be to combine ex-combatants and community members so that they operate as one collective, which will support the reintegration of ex-combatants. This was validated through the workshop and with community members. We have also learned from 7 years' experience in DR Congo that focusing exclusively on ex-combatants can risk breeding resentment among the community, as well as signalling that ex-combatants are different. We also agree that trauma healing and counselling is vitally important to prepare ex-combatants for their reintegration into their community. Our local partner, CRC, has 5 trained counsellors and we intend to double their capacity in this area to deal with the larger number of ex-combatants that will be supported in this area. CRC is one of the few local organisations in Eastern Congo with trained counsellors. 2. One expert asked: '(a) What are the required steps to also prepare the communities to re-engage the combatants; (b) what are the needed psycho-social preparation to help them to become productive citizens, (c) what are the risks/backlash from spoilers; (d) what are also risks in relation to large scale miners who can be displaced from a vibrant small scale gold industry; (e) what is the needed support from govt.' Our response: (a) & (b) CRC will arrange a series of meetings with each community to prepare them for the reintegration of ex-combatants into the community. This is coupled with one to one counselling for the ex-combatants and specific counselling for the families of ex-combatants so that family members are mentally prepared to accept them back into their homes. This has proved a very successful approach with their work, as it is also combined with activities that ex-combatants undertake to help rebuild their community (such as renovating a road or communal building). On (c) the workshop participants in Ituri in early June noted the following spoilers: the national army (FARDC), local Police, unscrupulous middle men (traders and buyers); and militias. All of these actors demand bribes of some description and/or harass the co-operatives. There was a lengthy discussion about how to address this and the consensus was that the Governor of the Province, as well as local chiefs (who grant access to the land) and the Department of Mines and Geology can be powerful allies, as it is in their interests to reduce corruption and support a more regulated mining industry which will generate more income for them than through the informal way that the sector operates. We have therefore included a significant advocacy and engagement process to ensure that these people are part of the project and that all relevant stakeholders are brought together and involved in the project. The miners also mentioned that there are reputable middle men that can be used rather than corrupt buyers and traders. On question (d), there are some large scale mines in the region but they do not see the artisanal miners as competition and have posed no problems before. On question (e), the workshop identified various government stakeholders that need to be engaged, including the Department for Mines and Geology and the Governor. We will work with them to ensure their cooperation and support, which will reflect well on them and their departments. 3. One expert asked 'I would like to suggest to the organization to send a multi-disciplinary team to work with the technical advisor to ensure that concerns/challenges will be explored with the environmental lens, governance lens and peacebuilding lens.' This is a good idea and we support this. The first workshop was held with support from a technical advisor and a peacebuilding expert. We will ensure that a governance advisor and environmental expert are also built into the budget to provide in-country advice and support at the early implementation stage.

The above picture is representative of the thousands of people (many of whom are children) working in small scale and artisanal gold mines across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The work is hard, dangerous, damaging to the environment, and results in very little income for the worker, due to corruption and criminal networks who control much of the trade. As a consequence the majority of workers live in abject poverty. 

Explain your idea

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world's poorest countries, plagued by decades of war and underdevelopment. The troubled east of the country is home to the majority of the gold production, which is mined in small scale and artisanal mines. For most, this is subsistence mining, providing little more than the means to exist at or below the poverty line. The work is not only dangerous; it is also environmentally damaging, as it uses mercury and other toxic chemicals. The health of thousands of people suffer, the environment is degraded and people remain desperately poor - all mining one of the world's most valuable and sought after precious metals. Our idea is to establish and support cooperatives of small scale miners (made up of ex-combatants and other war affected people) in Eastern DRC to produce more ethical and environmentally friendly gold, which also strengthens the prospects for peace. The production method also increases the gold output, improving incomes for people who mostly live in extreme poverty. This will be achieved not only through training and investments in improved machinery but also by ensuring that the different stakeholder groups (community members, environmentalists, business, government) are able to work together. This 'infrastructure for peace, planet and prosperity' is missing in DRC. We hope that over time this environmental and more ethical gold production can be developed further into the first Faitrade gold to be produced in DR Congo. If we are successful, the model can be replicated to other parts of DRC, where artisanal gold mining already represents the biggest single source of income for eastern DRC and the best hope for economic growth and development. Beyond DRC, the lessons could be replicated to other parts of sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. About 100 million people depend on artisanal mining worldwide, across around 80 countries.

Who Benefits?

The beneficiaries are the estimated 1,200 Congolese gold miners (men and women) and their families themselves (totaling 6,300 people), who will receive a boost to their income from the increased gold production due to the investment in improved machinery. If we are able to achieve Fairtrade certification, the gold will also command a market premium, which will produce a higher income for the miners and a 'social premium' for the communities (i.e. investment in social infrastructure). A second beneficiary group are children who will no longer have to work in the mines and can return to school. Finally, Congolese people in the area will benefit from an improved environment which will be less polluted by the chemicals that currently are used in gold production, and a more peaceful environment as ex-combatants will be less likely to re-join militia groups, as they will have improved incomes, be able to deal with their trauma and will have the skills to deal with conflict non-volently.

How is your idea unique?

The idea is unique because we know of no other project in DR Congo that is planning to engage ex-combatants as vectors of peace while at the same time addressing environmental degradation and extreme poverty, through small scale gold production. We have a number of unique advantages: We are working with arguably the most experienced local peacebuilding organisation in Eastern Congo who have ten years' experience in working with ex-combatants. They are trusted in these communities, unlike most other INGOs. We are also working with the world's foremost expert in ethical gold production who produced the world's first Fairtrade certified gold. Many people also believe that producing environmentally sustainable and ethically sourced/Fairtrade gold in DRC is too difficult to accomplish. We believe it is possible, and believe that it has enormous replication potential across Eastern Congo and across the world. If we can achieve this, it will be the first of its kind in the DR Congo.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Tell us more about you

Peace Direct is a UK based not-for-profit organization which was established in 2004 in order to identify and fund local peacebuilders around the world. Over the last ten years the organization’s remit has grown to encompass international advocacy on specific conflict issues, capacity building support to local organizations, and finding solutions to the scaling up needs of high quality local conflict prevention and resolution work. Our mission is to work with local people to stop violence and build sustainable peace, and we pride ourselves on being entrepreneurial, nimble and willing to take risks for peace. We have won a number of awards, including best new UK charity, and have twice come top of an international survey of INGOs, as assessed/scored by the local organizations that they work with in developing countries. We have been supporting locally led efforts to stop violence and build peace in DRC for almost ten years and our local partners are highly trusted and well known in the communities that they serve in Eastern DRC. Our partner, Centre Resolution Conflit (CRC) is a widely respected peacebuilding organization which has successfully reintegrated almost 6,000 ex-combatants back into their community over the past ten years. They are experts in how to work with war affected people and have trained pyschosocial counselors who provide the necessary support to ensure that ex-combatants and the community are able to heal after the ravages of war. Many of the staff at CRC are ex-combatants so have personal experiences of the issues faced by this group. A example of one of the CRC staff who will be involved in this project can be found here: We are also working with one of the world's foremost experts in environmentally sustainable and Fairtrade gold production, Greg Valerio, who produced the world's first Fairtrade certified gold. With his help, a gold mining co-operative made up of ex-combatants was established a number of years ago, so proof that ex-combatants can work together exists. We now want to take this to the next stage, and show the world that gold production can be a pathway to peace, prosperity. Greg will act as a technical consultant and project advisor throughout the 3 year project. See for more information on Greg's background and expertise.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
  • Yes, we are a registered company.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Joyce Gatambia

Great idea! I see it going places larger scales than this. A suggestion for phase 2: please include child labour/artisanal mining and education components. Let's tackle the extractive mineral poverty from child level. Kudos Peace Direct ...good job!

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