NGO seeks British action over DR Congo 'conflict minerals'

26th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Campaign group Global Witness said Monday it was launching legal action against the British government for allegedly failing to refer companies trading Congolese "conflict minerals" for UN sanctions.

The organisation said a number of British companies have been trading in minerals -- including tungsten, which is used in electronics, and tin -- controlled by armed groups fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is in defiance of United Nations sanctions introduced in 2008 and 2009, it said -- accusing Britain of sitting by and letting it happen.

"Armed groups controlling the trade in minerals like tin and tungsten use the money to buy guns and fund their violent campaign against civilians," said Gavin Hayman, campaigns director at Global Witness.

"The UN resolutions recognised that companies sourcing directly or indirectly from the region are part of the problem.

"But in spite of our frequent appeals, the UK government has steadfastly refused to act, which left us no choice but to take them to court."

Global Witness said it was applying to the High Court in London for an order requiring the coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron to put forward for sanctions on British firms violating the UN resolutions.

Britain's Foreign Office would not comment in detail on the case.

But it added in a statement: "The UK Government expects all British companies operating in the minerals sector in the DRC to follow high standards of due diligence, and to make every effort to establish the route through which the minerals they buy have passed.

"We will continue to take reports that they are not doing so seriously, and will assess in each case whether there are grounds to consider recommending to UN partners that sanctions measures be imposed or supporting proposals for listings made by other states."

Athough endowed with vast reserves of gold, copper, cobalt and diamonds, DR Congo is one of the world's poorest nations, scarred by the 1996-2003 war that cost some three million lives. Ethnic fighting continues, largely in the east.

© 2010 AFP

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