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Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is rich in natural resources such as gold, diamonds, and copper, in addition to many minerals that are important in the electronics and industrial sectors. However, the country faces a high level of poverty: the World Bank estimated in 2005 that 71.3% of the Congolese population lives below the poverty line. The mining industry makes up a large portion of the country’s GDP, with the World Bank estimating that 10 million Congolese are in some way supported by the mining industry. The Eastern DRC, a key conflict region in the country, is rich in tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold, many of which have been identified as “conflict minerals” in the area.
 
Armed groups in the Eastern DRC are often motivated by profits from the mining industry, and finance their violent campaigns with revenue from resource extraction. The human rights abuses committed by these groups include rape as an intimidation method and other forms of brutal violence. Armed groups, including Congolese rebel groups, rebel groups from neighbouring countries, Congolese army officers, and local militias, may either control the mines directly or impose illegal taxes on the transport of minerals on routes they control.
 
Working conditions in the mines are unsafe, and workers are often forced labourers. Armed groups use systematic extortion and demand illegal payments from the local population. Civilians who try to resist have been met with violence and intimidation.
 
According to the Enough Project, in 2008, the resources trade may have earned as much as $185 million for armed groups in the Eastern DRC. The vast majority of these minerals are sold to American consumers in electronics, such as MP3 players and cell phones. Meanwhile, the profits from these minerals are used to fuel violence and suffering while local people gain little in return. While natural resources did not start the DRC’s conflict, they are a main economic driver of the violence.