By Joel Scanlon
The Democratic Republic of Congo has lifted the six month ban on mining in the eastern part of the nation. The ban was announced by President Joseph Kabila in order to stop the conflicting groups in the region from gaining from mineral sales. Illegal mining in the area was said to supply money to the armed groups in the region causing havoc and violence.
Major offensives were launched by the government with the police and army in the hope of stopping the illegal mines. Now the Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu says that a new era in the mining sector has begun, in a bid to underline that the government feels that the ban has served its intended purpose.
Critics of the ban however claim that banning mining in three provinces did not really stop the criminal groups and the militia involved. The trade of minerals from the region has fuelled 15 years of conflict in the east of Congo and one set of operations would not really stamp out the so called evil. In fact some critics have gone so far as to say that the police and soldiers have also looted the area.
Still the lifting of the ban is good news as thousands of people associated with the mining industry will be able to reclaim work. Since the ban in September last year they have been unemployed. The mining minister said that now they will be able to implement better traceability of minerals from extraction to export.
The Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore and a major producer of copper and industrial diamonds. The Congo has 70% of the world’s coltan, and more than 30% of the world’s diamond reserves, mostly in the form of small, industrial diamonds. The coltan is a major source of tantalum, which is used in the fabrication of electronic components in computers and mobile phones. In 2002, tin was discovered in the east of the country, but, to date, mining has been on a small scale.