tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera February 28, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EST
>> we're in the eastern part of the democratic republic of congo. it's one of the least developed countries in the world, but there's an estimated $24 trillion worth of minerals here. tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold have all been linked to violence in eastern congo by rebel groups and the congolese army. >> millions of people have been killed in the congo over the past decade. i want to see peace in the congo. >> the same minerals are used to
make common electronics,that are sold all over the world. but in 2010, after months of lobbying by advocacy groups an obscure resolution called section 1502, was dropped into the dodd-frank wall street reform act. it means publicly traded companies are now required to track whether their products contain conflict minerals from congo. some of the top tech brands are taking credit for reducing violence here -- with the world's largest chip-maker intel even claiming that some of their products are now "100% conflict free". >> "we're proud to say the world's first commercially available conflict free microprocessors do just that". >> but how sure can they be? fault lines travels to eastern congo to investigate.
john kanyoni is the owner of a leading trading house in goma. he makes his living selling tin and tantalum to international companies. in 2010 he warned that the dodd- frank law would backfire... but he says he was up against a powerful lobby. >> imagine that you have angelina jolie at your door. you are a very big u.s. company, george clooney at your door saying you guys, you're the ones fueling the armed groups there. do you think that for the reputation of those companies they would be still sourcing from this region? they said ok we are stopping and that's what happened. >> soon after the law passed, companies took their business elsewhere. sales of tin ore from this province plummeted by more than 90%.
>> ah the containers. >> that's the material ready to be exported. we are doing almost 2 containers while we used to do 8 containers per month. >> the only way john, or anyone in congo -- can now legally export to the u.s. is by opting into a system that traces the origin of the minerals. >> yes i can show you some. these are the tags. >> so these tags are attached to the bags of minerals that come here? >> yes. >> at mines that are determined to be "conflict free" bags of minerals are tagged with a numeric code. >> so this entire traceability system rests on these tags? >> yes. >> exporters have to pay fees to take part in the tagging system, an extra cost that's passed all the way down to the miners. >> we're working now at 20% of our normal capacity.
>> international prices have also dropped recently, compounding the losses from the dodd-frank law. >> how do you survive? i mean you must have lost so much money. >> a lot of money. so those who did that feeling that they helped congo, they didn't help congo at all. it harmed thousands and thousands of congolese. you completely killed the business, if that was really your aim, you did very well, but you didn't, you didn't help drc at all. you didn't. >> the tagging system has been criticized for being not only expensive but also slow to implement. >> we're on our way to meet maxie muwonge, who helps the drc government determine which sites can be certified conflict free. >> the reality is that artisanal mining is the subsistence way
most of the communities in eastern congo survive. for them it is from the soil to the pocket to the stomach. >> how many mine sites have been certified? >> 160 mine sites have been validated in eastern congo. >> in the whole country? >> in the whole country, this is less than 10%... >> of the total number of mines... >> of the potential of artisanal mining. >> you said only 160 mines are certified and that's where the tags come from? >> yeah the tags... >> those are the minerals that are actually tagged? >> yes >> so the rest of the mines in the country how do they sell their minerals if they don't have tags? >> well uh this is a good question for government. >> if 90 percent of the mines in eastern congo aren't yet certified to use the tagging system, what's happening to all of those minerals? we got a tip about a mine in a place called nyabibwe, the
very first in eastern congo to be certified as conflict free. we stopped within sight of it but weren't able to get close. until last year nyabibwe was part of a project piloted by companies like philips, intel, and motorola that was held up as proof minerals could be traced from mine to export. but a source told us that untagged minerals had been brough there illegally, mixed in with the tagged minerals, and passed off as conflict-free. to find out more, we headed to a remote mining village called numbi - a 6 hour drive even deeper into the mountains. >> we're just arriving in numbi. it's one of the largest mines in the area and the most recent one to be certified. >> it's been four years since u.n. forces and the congolese army cleared this area of armed
groups, but it's only recently been designated "conflict free". in numbi, we met ombeni chikala, a supervisor at a local tin mine. for 15 years, he's made his living as a miner starting as a digger and working his way up. >> on the day we visited ombeni's mine site, agents logged and tagged a 6 kilo bag of tin, a process required for every single mineral shipment leaving congo to be legally sold in the west.
>> we asked jean how miners here were able to make a living before the site was certified. >> did you have the same system six months ago? >> nyabibwe is the mine that was held up as a model by western companies. >> so before this mine was certified, minerals would be brought there and tagged as if they were part of nyabibwe's production?
>> we're in bukavu, the capital of south kivu to meet with abbas kayonga. abbas heads the the anti-fraud division of the ministry of mines here. when we told him we'd heard minerals had been tagged and sold illegally in nyabibwe, he said the site is currently under investigation. >> what can you tell us about
incidents of fraud in numbi and nyabibwe? >> so you're saying the amount that's produced in nyabibwe is not very high, but the amount that is exported is very high. >> abbas and his agents track minerals from uncertified mines that arrive in the city. he told us that in the last 7 months they've intercepted 52 tons of illegal tin. he took us to a boat landing along lake kivu, one of the major conduits for mineral smuggling here. >> and how do your agents find out about this?
asked to remain anonymous. he gave us more information about how smuggling takes place across the land border with rwanda. he described how minerals travel through checkpoints with impunity and, in some cases, women are paid to conceal them under their dresses. >> what happens to the minerals once they get to rwanda? >> we wanted to test if we too could buy tags on the black
market. to do that, we needed to speak to a smuggler, whom we found through an anonymous lead. over the course of several conversations, he finally agreed to make a deal. he would sell us tags and export documents from a rwandan company for two 70 kilo bags of tin. we agreed to meet at a local guest house. that morning, the place was crowded and we could see security guards from the window. the smuggler, let's call him james, was late. when he finally arrived, he warned us that he was taking a great risk and agreed to an interview only if we concealed his identity. >> this is all the paperwork that goes with the tags...
>> how many tags have you smuggled in total? >> we left congo, and crossed over the border into rwanda to meet with the minister in charge of mining. >> one thing we heard a lot about in eastern drc was about minerals that get smuggled from eastern congo into rwanda and then get tagged in rwanda and then are sold through the traceability system. how are you dealing with that problem? >> i think the critical thing
for any country is to have a system to be able to track and trace anything. so rwanda has tried and i'm happy to say that it has a system which works. >> so you're a 100% confident that none of your agents can be bribed or sort of influenced or minerals aren't coming in late at night when they're not working and getting mixed in? >> i think all the minerals produced, processed, extracted from rwanda are mined legally and there are no conflict minerals in rwanda or conflict minerals leaving rwanda. and i'm 100% confident of that.
>> with so many holes in the supply chain, how can technology companies be so certain about where their minerals are coming from? has the tagging system made it easier to overlook what's happening on the ground? the london based advocacy group global witness pushed for the law and has played a key role in holding companies accountable. >> the law requires companies to do what is known as due diligence which is a series of supply chain checks. so the tagging is effectively a safeguard for some companies. when it comes down to actually getting your hands on your supply chain and understanding what's going on along it, that's not happening. what we have to be very careful not to do is create a scheme that's simply papering over the cracks and allowing the same networks and the same power dynamics to work but under a tag
scheme. >> dan fahey says that criminal networks have already found ways to work around the tagging system. he spent two years as a u.n. investigator in eastern congo. >> rather than have guys with guns at the mine site, you have the guys with guns sitting in the trading town, taxing the trade or otherwise deriving money from the exploitation and, and the smuggling of minerals. or directly engaging in the smuggling by using government army trucks to drive minerals to the border which are smuggled across the border. so you have an adaptation that's taken place that dodd-frank has not addressed. >> do you think an approach like this would ever work in terms of coming up with a solution to the conflict in the congo? >> i think it's possible to have some type of system, but it needs to be designed in cooperation with local actors, with national actors, not engineered from outside, like
dodd-frank has been. it was some activists in washington dc who had a very simplistic understanding of conflict and they presented that as anywhere there were minerals, there's conflict. therefore if we address the minerals issue, it will end conflict. but that's a very misleading and simplistic narrative that they created and it didn't, it wasn't true then, it isn't true now. >> a washington non-profit called "the enough project" led the lobbying efforts for dodd-frank 1502 waging a high-profile campaign that drew in celebrities, consumers and campus groups. together with apple and intel, they've claimed that their efforts have helped reduced violence in the congo. >> i'm going to the enough project to ask them about some of the consequences of the law they pushed so hard for.
>> you know we were also just in eastern congo and one of the things we heard from a lot of miners and people in the industry was that this law that was supposed to help them has actually set them back. and is actually hurting them. >> let's remember that the status quo, before all this went into place was mining territories that were controlled by armed groups who are holding a gun to the head of, of ordinary citizens who were being forced to mine. those extreme levels of violence required a response. >> given that you know all of the fraud that's been documented by the u.n., is there such a thing as conflict-free minerals from congo? >> absolutely. yeah, there are several conflict-free sourcing initiatives going on in congo right now. and those are, those are minerals that should go into the international market and end up in our products.
>> if you have minerals coming in and then they're getting mixed in and bagged and tagged at the mine that's certified, there's no way of knowing what minerals are coming in. >> this is a problem. this is a serious problem, um, and these conflict-free sourcing issues are works in progress. there are still challenges, but at least something is moving. at least there is a system in place to start to improve. uh and, and that with time that, that will end up giving communities you know what they've hoped for, for a long time which has been the natural resources of congo actually come back and benefit them. >> i asked holly about a statement by intel that the company and their partners had reduced armed group profits by 55%. >> you'd have to ask them about that statistic. if that's in their materials. >> we did ask intel, who said they had gotten that figure from the enough project. intel declined an interview with
fault lines. but in an email statement they said they've taken unprecedented steps and made an extraordinary effort to put systems in place that provide reasonable assurance that their materials are "conflict-free". >> the world's first conflict free microprocessor. >> really to say something is conflict free you'd have to have a presence at that mine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the entire year to be able to say for sure that there's no armed group presence. that armed groups are not taxing it, that minerals are not coming in from outside, and being mixed and re-sourced. >> and that isn't happening anywhere. >> it's not happening. that's the sad reality of this. >> recently, u.n. investigators implicated several rwandan companies in the illegal sale of tags and paperwork, including the one we purchased
from, somika. in eastern congo, the link between minerals and conflict remains far from clear cut, and the miners have questions of their own for washington. >> what do you mean by increasing the war? how is it increasing the war? >> solutions for africa, for the region, for drc, sustainable solution will be made by locals.
don't think that in your office in washington, in london, in paris, in brussels, that you'll be implementing policies which will be helping us more here than us are concerned. if you look at our families here, every congolese that lives here they will tell you that everyone, somehow was affected by the war. how do you think that people who are in europe will be or in u.s. will be more caring for us than ourselves? because we need more peace than anyone else. this is our land, this is our country. >> these people have decided that today they will be arrested. >> i know that i'm being surveilled. >> people are not getting the care that they need. >> this is a crime against humanity. >> hands up... >> don't shoot. >> hands up... >> don't shoot.
>> what do we want? >> justice. >> when do we want it? >> now. >> explosions going on... we're not quite sure - >> is that an i.e.d.? good evening from los angeles, welcome to a special edition ever muslim brotherhood. i'm michael oku. thing about your life for a second. do you own a home, car, cell phone. do you go to the doctor, dentist or doub load music on -- download music on itunes. chances are you have signed away a fundamental right. the right to have your way in court. it's called arbitration, for the past six months we talked to
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