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  • Writer's pictureAlltold Staff

The Silent Genocide

Jasmyne Jones- Reporter

The Dominican Republic of Congo (DCR) is home to several of the most valuable minerals currently known to man.  Despite this economically valuable natural resource in DCR, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The Congolese people: men, women, and children, are forced to give up their homes for the mining properties and sent to work mining the ore. 

 The country possesses the largest Cobalt reservoirs on the planet, producing, as recorded by the NPR in 2021, an estimated 70% of the world's supply. The vast majority of this stock is sourced from the city of Kolwezi. Colton mining in the DRC has also been at an all time high, generating 700 metric tons in 2021 alone, and establishing the Dominican Republic of Congo as the most substantial contributor of the ore. These materials are commonly used in the production of lithium ion batteries, which are used to power almost every electrical device currently on markets across the globe. The combination of these variables makes the country exceedingly valuable to world powers, especially the western hemisphere, where there is a high desire for these products in order to meet consumer demands. An article, written by the International Business Center of Michigan State University, disclosed that, “The Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of U.S. $24 trillion.” 

The mining of these raw minerals has taken an enormous toll on the people and environment of The Dominican Republic of Congo. So as to compensate for the rapid growth and spread of mining sites, millions of Congolese civilians are being involuntarily removed from their homes, which are in turn demolished along with thousands of trees. Over the past 27 years, 6.9 million people, half of this population being children, have been displaced and placed into extreme poverty. “Where I come from people eat once a day. Once a day maybe, at night time or you don’t eat at all. Some people with six kids, three eat today and three eat tomorrow”, said Dikembe Mutomb, a Congolese man, in an interview with Graham Bensinger. On the continent of Africa, over 50% of the water is found in the DRC, and yet hardly any of its residents have access to safe drinking water. Both the water and air alike have been contaminated by the toxic fumes released in the mining process. Mutomb continued, “People walk about five kilometers to go get water, everyday, and five kilometers back.” 

The task of minging itself includes several dangers, whether they be physical or psychological. Minerals are typically and painfully extracted by hand, occasionally accompanied by rudimentary tools, in a process classified as artisanal/ small-scale mining. Terry Gross, an author for the NPR’s global health and development blog, wrote, “Technically, under the law, there should not be artisanal mining taking place in any industrial mine. And yet, lo and behold, at most of the industrial mines, there is some artisanal mining taking place. And the reason is, it's a penny-wage way to boost production.” Most excavation sites in the DRC are unregulated and have not been established with safety in mind, increasing the number of deaths caused by mine collapses. The substances being mined are yet another hazardous imposition for workers. Siddharth Kara, a researcher at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “Cobalt is toxic to touch and breathe — and there are hundreds of thousands of poor Congolese people touching and breathing it day in and day out. Young mothers with babies strapped to their backs, all breathing in this toxic cobalt dust.” The treatment of these people is equivalent to that of modern day slavery. Laborers are killed, beaten, and sexually assaulted for refusing overwhelming work. Approximately 48 women / hour are repeatedly raped, while thousands of children / year are accused of being “unskilled artisans” and murdered. Kara continued,“You have to imagine walking around some of these mining areas and dialing back our clock centuries. People are working in subhuman, grinding, degrading conditions.” 

Although most mines are owned by dominant countries, including China, this suffering is forced onto the people of Congo by various rebel groups. After the First and Second Wars of Congo, the government of Congo was extremely damaged, leaving way for them to claim power. Anita Bangamwaboo, a displaced Congolese woman, shared her experiences during this time by saying, “I could hear the rebels fighting outside. I had a small shop outside selling alcohol, so they destroyed my door and entered my house. They found me with my kids. They drank all the alcohol there and forced me to give them all the money I had. Then, they started raping me. They warned me that if I screamed, they would kill me.”The largest and most problematic of the rebel groups is the March 23 Movement (M23), who rose to power in 2012. They are alleged to be backed by the governments of both Uganda and Rwanda. Countries such as Israel, the US, the UK, France, and the EU are taking advantage of the instabilities these organizations cause. Not only do they profit off of mining reservoirs, but they are all also confirmed to have provided them with funding. 

This massacre infiltrates all areas of people’s lives. Cobalt and Colton are two of the most commonly used minerals in the production of technology. Smartphones, electric cars, computers, televisions, and any other electronic device you could think of. More than likely, you are reading this article from a phone or  computer. What can be done to combat this? Senior Micheal Belting said “The answer advertising will give you is to think that the middle-class citizens just need to stop doing this or that, just as we have in the eco-friendly movement, but the reality is that this shouldn't be placed back in the hands of the people. It's not something within our control of direct change, just as recycling was supposedly the direct change needed to save the environment when in reality it's a shockingly marginal change that really is overcome by the one-percent's acts of ecoterrorism.”

He continued, “The elite one percent of first-world society and the exploitative business practices pushing them to said position is what needs to be called against here. It's not the people who are aiding in these acts, it's the suits behind the businesses that want to make a dime more off their production lines. I mean, even recently McDonald’s protestors have had success in boycotting them (to where a figure for economic damages has been produced), and if the largest fast food business in the world can be boycotted to relative success then it's not all fairy tales to consider a protest of the companies who are exploiting the people of the Congo as if to pretend they aren't human beings just like us.”

Senior Lowell Parker said, “Even though we can’t blame everyday citizens for the decisions of our political leaders, there are a lot of ways that we can help boycotting efforts and bring attention to what is happening to the Congolese people.” Lowell continued, “Similarly to the large-scale boycotting that we are seeing today, we can also avoid repurchasing electronic devices unless absolutely necessary. If we can lower our overall demand for lithium batteries, we can in theory reduce the need for Cobalt and Colton. What is important is that we show support for the people of The Democratic Republic of Congo and remember that they are simply human just like us.”

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