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The illegal economic exploitation of artisanal mining areas by military forces is a persistent problem in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), even in areas such as northern Katanga Province that are in transition to peace. Many former rebels and militia have not demobilized or been properly integrated into new army structures, and the benefits they derive from mining serve as a disincentive to do so. The government seems to tacitly condone the practice. Continued militarization of mining areas is associated with human right abuses, is an obstacle to military reform and prevents the artisanal mining sector from contributing to post-conflict reconstruction.
There is little political will to completely demilitarize mining areas. However, some steps could be taken to promote gradual demilitarization. Military authorities could be convinced to punish abuse and reward moderation among units that exploit mines. Formalization of artisanal mining, including the official registration of mining zones, could increase civilian presence and intensify public scrutiny of military behaviour.
The international community should enhance its support to efforts initiated by United Nations peacekeepers and the Congolese mining authorities to re-establish civilian control over mines and trading centres in the entire eastern DRC, including northern Katanga.
II. Mining and mineral trading in northern Katanga
III. The military presence around the Nyunzu coltan mines
IV. Military exploitation of mining communities
V. Conclusions: Demilitarizing mines in northern Katanga