OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

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

Written by

*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: https://www.peacedirect.org/remembering-fight-peace/

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 https://blog.gregvalerio.com/the-fair-trade-jeweller/ 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.

20 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Joyce
Team

Great idea! I see it going places ...to 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!

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Kate, Ashley and all at OpenIDEO

Just a quick note to say that we've really enjoyed the experience of designing this project with our partners in this way. It's been challenging but also exciting and we've appreciated the feedback from the experts. We very much hope that we are selected for funding, but even if not, we've appreciated the process and have learned a lot from it, along with our partner. So thank you for enabling us to participate in this challenge.

Best wishes
Dylan and the rest of the Peace Direct team

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Dylan and Team! We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from our expert reviewers. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on expert career, previous work and field experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question:
• The use of mercury in small scale gold production is the same in my country - so the approach of improving the use of equipment is exciting. Providing livelihood for ex-combatants to build peace is a familiar approach for post-war rebuilding. 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. These are key pieces that if considered would strengthen proposal.

Desirability and Viability of proposal:
• This idea would be feasible since it provides alternatives to bad small scale mining practice and at the same time livelihood for a very vulnerable sector - the ex-combatants.
• There are points that challenge the viability of the idea (in view of the remaining questions/concerns on the idea). Other questions would need to be asked - the required steps to also prepare the communities to re-engage the combatants, what are the needed psycho-social preparation to help them to become productive citizens, what are the risks/backlash from spoilers, what are also risks in relation to large scale miners who can be displaced from a vibrant small scale gold industry, what is the needed support from govt.

Feasibility of proposal (is this an idea that could be brought to life?):
• This is an idea that I would like to see brought to life - for it addresses two of the important issues in the context of Congo (resource issues and ex-combatants).
• If the idea succeeds, it may be a model for other countries faced with similar issues. However, the project has inherent risks that implementers need to mitigate to ensure that positive impacts will outweigh the challenges.

Other questions or suggestions our experts felt would support the assessment or success of your idea:
• 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.

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://ideo.to/DXld5g Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.
 
Have questions? Email us at bridgebuilder@ideo.com.
 
Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of eldy
Team

Hi Dylan,
It's weird to think, to have a gold mine but to live in poverty. But that's life, if not managed properly and fairly certainly will lead to social inequality.

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Eldy

Yes, I agree. A totally unfair situation, and one that the majority of small scale and artisanal miners live with. They mine precious metals but still live in poverty. We are aiming to change that, by introducing enhanced production methods which produce more gold and in a way that not only is kinder to the environment but also supports peace in the region. We're really excited about this, and we'll let you know how things progress!

Cheers
Dylan

Photo of Kate
Team

Hi Dylan,

It is great to read all the updates to your project proposal. I look forward to reading the direct feedback from trip at the end of May.

How will Jean find out about the mining cooperative?

What are the requirements for fair-trade certification?

Are there certain types of organisations or organisations working in specific geographies that you are keen to connect to?

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Kate

Thanks for your message. In terms of Jean finding out about the gold co-op, we explained in the user experience map that he is already in it as he heard about it when he returned from the bush. In terms of Jean and CRC working to encourage other ex-combatants to return and work in the co-ops, CRC will use their existing connections with local militia groups to identify those who would like to return. Similarly, CRC's local work in the neighbouring communities and close communication with local leaders will allow them to quickly identify ex-combatants who are having financial and social difficulty reintegrating into communities. Lastly, CRC has over 40 radio clubs. These clubs are given training on community mobilisation and conflict transformation and listen in to weekly radio broadcasts, organised by CRC around local issues the communities deem important such as care for children, new agricultural techniques or improving personal finances. These broadcasts are interactive and encourage collaboration. CRC frequently uses these broadcasts to call for combatants to leave the bush and details the help CRC could provide them. This method has lead to the successful demobilisation of both children and adults.

In terms of fairtrade certification, in order to be given it, the mining co-op must adhere to a detailed 'standard' document (of about 50 pages!). The standard includes indicators to be met on under the following headings: Organisational democracy and legalisation; Health and safety; Labour standards; Trading standards; social standards (measuring community impact) and; environmental. Under each of these is a group of indicators, on order to achieve the certification there is a minimum compliance requirement. Once this has been reached there are also progressive compliance standards. Therefore the fair trade certification is not static and always demands improvement. As a result of the comprehensive nature of the standard and the challenging environment we expect fairtrade certification can be achieved in 3-5 years.

In terms of organisations we want to collaborate with. There with be the international, national fairtrade organisations (including one in Uganda). In addition, we will look to work collaboratively with local organisations or authorities if and when they become involved in the mining or trading supply chain to ensure the project can have the greatest positive impact on the beneficiaries and the region.

I hope those answers are useful.

Thanks

Photo of Ian Robert
Team

If you are interested in TECH for purification of toxic effluent from gold mining let me know in I can assist you whilst it does restore a rivers own ecosystem being the riverbeds are cleaned out so fish breeding occurs again. NOT CHEAP either just overall no fresh water a huge issue, whilst you get precious metals returns plus H2 too. I even have TECH for $100,000 outlay sees 1 ton of food grown weekly based on waste becomes energy source.

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Ian
As part of this project we will be using small scale, contextual technologies that will be focused on removing mercury from the gold processing process. This will be very small pieces of equipment, rather than large scale. We will not be looking for large scale processing machinery in this work in order to ensure the project can be sustainable.
Thanks

Photo of Ian Robert
Team

Dylan, have a look at Petrol & Oil traps plus Grease traps I.S.O. codes for removing such waste from water, as you might be able to assist you with mercury separation it. Keep smiling if you ever need plumbing advise just email globalian@rocketmail.com
All the Best.

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Ian

Thanks for this. Much appreciated. We're expecting to take the lessons learned from successfully implemented projects in Uganda and Tanzania, so we are confident that the negative environmental impact of the gold production process will be significantly minimised.

thanks
Dylan

Photo of Ian Robert
Team

My pleasure bro, remember you can separate heavy metals using petrol and oil traps, then truly if water not good, simply use electrolyze at 24 cents for 1000 gallons can be done for 99% pure water, only don’t forget to install wetlands structure to add natural minerals back in this effluent, for drinking, and everyone wins including environment. Keep on Smiling, if you ever need a plumber, just email me a photo so I can see it all.

Photo of Kate
Team

Hi Dylan,

Thank you for sharing your project.

How will this project develop over the next 1-3 years? What additional expertise would you need to bring on board for your project?

Would you tell me more about the ‘5,000 ex-combatants back into their community over the past ten years’? What forms of employment are they engaged in?

Is this your website - https://www.peacedirect.org/? Would you include a link to your website in your post and the CRC - http://crc-congo.tripod.com/?

I look forward to seeing your answers to the questions for the experts and user journey and beneficiary feedback for your project.

If you have any questions on the beneficiary feedback phase, please contact me on bridgebuilder@ideo.com.

It would be great if you would answer the questions from Joseph Hong and Hannah Zingre below.

I just wanted to include a link to this website to add some context:

“Conflict gold” blights the Democratic Republic of Congo
http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2017/01/30/conflict-gold-blights-the-democratic-republic-of-congo/

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Kate
Thanks for your message.
In terms of your question on project development over the next 1-3 years, there are a number of phases planned.

Phase 1: In-country beneficiary feedback and risk assessment. At the end of May we will be conducting a series of workshops in Eastern Congo to refine the idea further, based on the input and feedback from existing gold cooperative members as well as other stakeholders. While our local partner has already talked to the existing gold cooperative members about this project and has received a very positive response, we'd like to delve deeper into the issues, challenges and opportunities ahead and this will take place in the next month.

Phase 2 will focus on laying the foundations for introducing the more environmentally friendly (mercury free) gold processing system for the gold mining cooperative. This is actually a fairly straightforward process which will only require our fair trade gold expert and the artisanal mining engineer he works with. Their work will be on two levels. One is educating the cooperative members in the health risks associated with mercury and training in the use of the appropriate technology. Two, it will be the installation of the equipment to ensure it works correctly. An important component of this phase is to deliver training in how to run Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), as well as providing training in financial management and conflict resolution, so that cooperative members are better organised and better able to deal with conflicts non-violently. We will also conduct a scoping study of the potential to scale up and replicate the cooperatives in other areas of Eastern Congo. Phase 2 will take approximately 12 months.

Phase 3 will focus on the longer term aim of fair trade gold certification. This could take anywhere from between 3-5 years. This is a detailed process which will require training to empower the association to manage their own affairs to international standards. If you require a copy of the fair trade gold standards, we are happy to send one. The project will build on the principles already applied to mining in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which our fair trade gold expert has been involved with from the beginning and has seen two mines certified to date over the last four years. In Eastern Congo the challenge of achieving fair trade certification will be challenging due to the volatile context, but we have a strong base from which to build, through the existing co-operatives and the presence of a strong local partner which works with some of the most vulnerable war affected groups, including ex-combatants, war widows and other people at risk of joining militia groups.

In terms of your question on the 5,000 ex-combatants. CRC have pioneered a community based reintegration model for ex-combatants working closely with both the individuals and, more crucially, the communities they go back to. This method is now recognised by the UK Department for International development (DfID) as best practice for the region. Although the international community (largely through the UN) have spent millions of dollars attempting to demobilise and reintegrate militia, the majority of ex-combatants return to the bush due to the stigma they face within their communities and the lack of economic opportunities and support provided by the government. CRC work with communities on discussions and activities which bring together the ex-combatants and community members. They also strengthen the economic stability of the community as a whole by providing context specific livelihood opportunities to ex-combatants and disadvantaged community members. Employment opportunities vary depending on individual resources, skills and need. However, most ex-combatants either work in agriculture (producing coffee, cassava, beans or herding goats) or work on their own small businesses as bakers, carpenters, mechanics or electricians. CRC projects are very successful at ensuring ex-combatants do not return to militias with 95% remaining in their communities. See https://www.peacedirect.org/what-we-do/supporting-ex-combatants/ for more information.

Due to the logistical difficulties of travelling to DR Congo (including delays in getting visas) we haven’t been able to solicit direct feedback from direct users yet. However, this is planned for the end of May when Greg Valerio (our Fairtrade gold expert) will be visiting for a week. In the meantime we have asked CRC to share the project concept with the gold coop members who CRC reports are very excited about increasing gold production in an environmentally friendly way.

Both the websites you have cited are correct and I have answered the questions above. Please let me know if you require anything further.

Thanks

Photo of Joseph
Team

Great idea! Wondering how exactly investment in new machinery would decrease personal and environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals used in gold ore refining (e.g., nitric acid)?

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Joseph
In terms of processing, please see my answer to the previous question. When the gold comes out of the ground, it is in a flake form (a very fine gold grain). We will be smelting that into an unrefined (i.e. impure) gold 'doray' bar. There will be no refining in the project, therefore, we have no need for nitric acid and other chemicals associated with refining gold. What we are seeking to do is introduce a clean, chemical free gold processing system. There is an established a precedence for this in the fair trade initiative in Eastern Uganda. In this respect the project is not just an idea, it is the replication of a existing proven practice in Uganda. What makes the Eastern Congo project so exciting is that we are working with ex-combatants and other war affected populations so that the gold production has a strong peacebuilding dividend for communities, as well as a positive environmental impact.

Photo of Hannah
Team

This is an encouraging idea, but I would like to know more about the technology that you would be utilizing and how it can help to combat the environmental devastation that occurs due to gold mining. Will Mercury still be used? I live in Peru, where one of the world's largest (THE world's largest, perhaps) illegal gold mining operations is quickly destroying vast swaths of the Amazon jungle. The devastation due to Mercury contamination and excessive mining is fast becoming a hot-button issue in the world of environmental protection, but I haven't seen many resolutions to the problem that I think are feasible or particularly sustainable.

The government here in Peru has had no success in shutting down these massive operations due to the fact that there is a seemingly endless line of people willing to put themselves in harms way by exposing themselves to the dangerous chemicals and work conditions in order to make some money to support their families. Furthermore, the local mafia has a stranglehold on the gold production and are powerful adversaries to any government attempt to clear out the miners. How does the situation in the DRC compare? What, if any, hurdles will the miners utilizing the new technologies and forming independent groups face? Is there a potential for local backlash?

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Hannah
Any technology we invest in the project will be focused on removing mercury from the gold processing system. We will be addressing two principle health and ecological issues. One, mercury is highly neuro-toxic and damaging to human health. Two, it is also damaging to the environment and particularly water systems causing a latent build up of mercury in the fauna and fish stock which is eventually eaten by humans. The project will be eradicating the release of mercury into the local environment. In terms of the risk associated with 'mafia' and quasi-legal organisations this will also be part of our assessment (to be conducted end of May). We will address whether this association and its support organisational (CRC) together have the organisational strength to resist being subverted by illegal actors.

We are, however, confident this will work as when the local gold mining association involved in this project was formed in 2013 there were questions as to whether they would be sustainable. The fact that the organisation is still operational up to the present day is a good indicator that there is the human capacity to resist subversion. Further risk analysis is going to take place to support the project.

Photo of eldy
Team

Hi Dylan,
About 5 kilometers from my house there is a gold mining property of individuals, although the advantages is all to the owner but the job is dangerous and damaging to the environment. Is there already a solution on this matter?

Photo of Dylan
Team

Hi Eldy
We appreciate this is a common issue. In terms of working towards a fair trade gold standard as we are in this project, we would not be certifying individuals (who are difficult to regulate). We would only certify registered organisations and associations with transparent processes. These are the kind of groups we would be working with in the Congo.
Thanks