DRC exports first conflict-free gold

Wednesday July 05 2017

A gold mine in DR Congo. The Just Gold project implemented a system to trace legal and conflict-free artisanal gold in the DRC, with a proven chain of custody from mine site to exporter. PHOTO FILE | AFP

By Allan Olingo

Fair Trade Jewellery has announced the first export of conflict-free and traceable artisanal gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Canada.

The milestone, which saw the export of 238 grams in three gold bars to Canada, comes a month after Partnership Africa Canada announced the Just Gold project had implemented a system to trace legal and conflict-free artisanal gold in the DRC, with a proven chain of custody from mine site to exporter.

The gold has already been refined and alloyed, and worked into four responsibly mined and conflict-free artisanal gold rings. Each ring has been engraved with a lot number, which traces it to a specific mine site in the DRC’s Ituri Province, where the gold originated.

“Sourcing from Congo was a new and exceptionally ambitious process, but one to which our organisation is committed to, thanks to partners on the ground,” said Robin Gambhir, Fair Trade Jewellery co-founder.

“Ensuring we source fully traceable materials directly from communities is a way to foster community development, and as a company, deepen our impact on many stakeholders,” Mr Gambhir said.

READ: DR Congo cracks down on gold smugglers


Partnership Africa Canada began the Just Gold project as a pilot in 2015 in Ituri Province. 

The project, which has over 600 miners registered across six sites, creates incentives for artisanal gold miners to channel their product to legal exporters and eventually responsible consumers, by offering fair and transparent pricing and by providing capacity-building, such as technical assistance to miners in return for legal sales.

Miners are taught better exploitation techniques and as such, the gold they produce must be tracked and sold through legal channels.

READ: DR Congo losing upto $38m as Chinese firms ‘smuggle out gold’

According to Partnership Africa Canada’s executive director Joanne Lebert, this export from Bunia, DRC to Toronto proved that it is possible to trace and bring conflict-free Congolese artisanal gold to Canadian and international consumers.

“What is particularly exciting is that we have shown that every gram of gold can be accompanied by reliable quantitative and qualitative data about its provenance and the actors involved in its extraction, production and trade,” said Mr Lebert. “That is impossible to carry out due diligence on gold supply chains is no longer a valid argument for industry. We have proven otherwise.”

Some of the challenges faced during this export included high export taxes, transportation restrictions and burdensome paperwork. Partnership Africa Canada will ask the Congolese government to create more favourable conditions for legal trade and responsible investment.

READ: Illegal minerals from DR Congo fund terrorist groups