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Coltan, Congo and Conflict

5 June 2013

This report evaluates the links between coltan trade and violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and examines the potential for recent legislation to break such links and reduce conflict.

Due to effective NGO campaigns, such as “No blood on my mobile” coltan became the most visible symbol of the link between the deadly conflict in the DRC and the exploitation of mineral resources. The report concludes that the importance of coltan as a source of revenue for armed groups is often exaggerated. With an exception of a short-lived coltan boom in 2000-2001, it was never the substantial source of funding for armed groups. Although armed groups have profited from Congo’s mineral wealth, coltan was not the main instigator of the conflict in the DRC and was at most a contributing factor. Many policy initiatives aimed at breaking the link between mining, mineral trade, and conflict, including Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act in the U.S., suffer from problems related to both effectiveness and efficiency. Ending the violence requires a long-term and comprehensive approach that combines military, political and economic efforts, with a particular emphasis on building capable and legitimate institutions, restoring the state’s monopoly on violence and promoting economic development that is not based on illegal activities.

This HCSS report has been produced in collaboration with the Bundesanstalt fur Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Raw Materials Group (RMG), and Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), as part of the wider POLINARES project. POLINARES aims to explore the future challenges facing access to fossil fuels and mineral resources, and is funded by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme.

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Experts on this report

Strategic Analyst

Artur Usanov

Artur Usanov is a strategic analyst at HCSS. He is also currently finishing his doctoral dissertation in policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

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Strategic Analyst

Marjolein de Ridder

Marjolein de Ridder is a strategic analyst at HCSS. She holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Leuven and a Master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Leiden University and the Clingendael Institute.

Strategic Analyst

Willem Auping

Willem Auping is a strategic analyst at HCSS and external PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). He holds a master’s degree (MSc) from the TU Delft faculty Technology, Policy, and Management, with a specialization in modeling, simulation, and gaming. Next to his work,


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