The violent exploitation of natural resources has been a persistent problem in the Great Lakes Region of Africa for much of history.
From rubber in the colonial period to the ongoing mining of tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold—commonly known as 3TG—countries in the region have experienced conflict and violence in the name of resource extraction.
Since 1998, more than five million people have died in the fighting when the armies of six neighboring countries invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo following the Rwandan genocide. Millions more have been displaced, fleeing abuses by governments and rebel groups alike.
While the ongoing conflict in the Great Lakes region may seem far removed for many—we are all tied to it by the everyday tech gadgets we use. Smartphones, laptops, cameras, and many other electronics rely on the minerals mined in the region.
Yet, the high demand for electronics has not translated into economic development. Rather, the revenues generated by the illegal exploitation for high-value minerals inside these products has been used to purchase arms and support violence.
PAC's work contributes to conflict-free minerals which will support improved security in the region, as well as equitable and sustainable development for men, women, and children. It supports the production and trade of responsibly-sourced minerals by governments and private sector, as well as fostering conditions for the artisanal mining sector to benefit from the sector.
Our work cuts across four programme areas:
The international community has long recognized the role of mineral exploitation in conflict financing. Drawing on our expertise with the Kimberley Process, PAC developed the Regional Certification Mechanism for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region that was adopted in 2011. We provide technical guidance and training to the Secretariat and Member States to ensure that they can effectively implement and meet requirements for international and regional standards.
In the Great Lakes region, the artisanal mining sector remains largely informal and is prone to widespread corruption and violence, with almost no traceability or tracking for gold. This makes artisanal gold an ideal target for financing armed groups, resulting in exploitation of miners and loss of revenues for the government when gold is smuggled out of the country. PAC's Just Gold pilot project aims to formalize the Democratic Republic of Congo's artisanal gold mining sector by creating a traceable, conflict-free mineral supply chain from mine site to refiner that complies with international certification and regulatory standards.
Ultimately, the goal of ending the trade in conflict minerals requires local civil society be involved in the monitoring and reporting of the conditions under which minerals are extracted and traded. PAC has supported the creation of a civil society platform, where groups share expertise and received training in order to monitor and report on certification mechanism.
Millions across Africa rely on artisanal mining for their livelihoods—including women. Women are essential to the sector, yet their experiences and contributions as potential economic and political actors have been largely undocumented. PAC is engaged in research across the artisanal and small-scale mining sector in the Great Lakes region to spotlight the participation of women and girls. PAC is supporting policies and implementing strategies that increase women's security and empowerment in the sector.