Brief history of the exploitation of Congolese gold: From the colonial period to the end of the second republic

The lessons from the ‘Who is Who’ chapter (see below) are that the Congolese economy suffers from three major shortcomings in relation to the exploitation of gold:
  • Companies with legal title to explore or exploit gold deposits are not deploying capital and expertise with the desirable effectiveness and speed to maximize salaries, taxes, and royalties, and to enhance local economies; Congo’s Golden Web
  • Too many small-scale miners are not operating with legal permits and are therefore not contributing to the Congolese economy by paying taxes, export duties or fees for mining permits; and
  • Artisanal gold miners tend to pay exorbitant fees and taxes that never reach the state’s coffers due to the widespread corruption and criminalisation of government officials working in the sector, while a very high percentage gold traders export their gold without paying statutory taxes or export duties.This dysfunctional system – full of regulatory infractions and criminal endeavours – is not a recent creation. It was similar during both the colonial and Mobutu eras, including the use of minerals to fund conflicts. Indeed, forced labour, the lack of transparent and accountable mining contracts, corruption, the birth of artisanal gold mining in a legal vacuum, the rise of Nande trading networks toform an alternative – or, as some call it, illegal – economy, grand theft by generals, senior politicians, warlords and rebel-leaders, the calculated trade war unleashed by regulatory changes in Uganda, illegal gold exploitation by Rwandan, Ugandan and other foreign military officers in alliance with Congolese militias, and militias imposing their own administrative and taxation systems in ‘liberated’ gold mining regions are all interwoven into Congo’s long history of gold extraction. It is no surprise that from these corrupted roots new types of crime and criminals keep on sprouting. While history should not serve as an excuse, understanding the past may help to enhance today’s policy and regulatory responses. For this purpose, SARW’s report now provides a more detailed description of past humanitarian, environmental and commercial mechanisms.