Fungamwaka – a mine in the east of Congo. These men work so that we can make telephone calls. They are mining coltan, which is indispensable for the production of mobile phones. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s second-largest supplier of this rare mineral. Fungamwaka is a model mine. There is no child labour, state controls are carried out, taxes are paid. Those in charge of the mine operate legally. And above all there are no militia groups who finance themselves by smuggling resources. The long civil war is the biggest problem in east Congo – funded by the resource wealth in the ground.
Ninety percent of the mines are managed by small-scale miners in remote border areas – an El Dorado for rebel groups who demand a share of the yield and sell it the global market via neighbouring countries like Rwanda.
The ore is separated from the sand with a shovel, just like in the old gold-digging days. The price of tin has dropped to 5 euros a kilo in the provincial capital; at least coltan still fetches 20 euros.
That is why organisations like Misereor have been demanding for a long time that organisations should be legally obliged to ensure that human rights standards are maintained throughout their supply chain from raw materials to finished product- and to cover the costs of this. In Fungamwaka it’s only the miners who pay for the controls- they earn less.