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Poaching? Gorillas in DR Congo are dying due to mining

The current Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) report describes drastic links between the mining of precious metal minerals needed to produce high-tech products and the critical loss of endangered animals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The report, which focuses on the vast territory of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and the Itombwe Nature Reserve, is rather groundbreaking. It names the real cause of the decline of eastern gorillas, whose numbers have fallen by 77% over the last twenty years. Yes, the main reasons why these primates disappear are, of course, poaching and bushmeat. However, the WCS goes further in its report. The driving engine of hunting and poaching is, according to them, nothing but the extraction of precious metals in the forests . The meat of the forest is the main livelihood of miners in isolated mining camps. In order to protect the gorillas more effectively, it will not only "combat" poaching, which is a purely accompanying phenomenon of mining.

This is an initiative based on mining companies themselves. Only customers-users who have so far unknowingly contributed to the disposal of the environment can only act on the action. The conclusions of WCS are based on very specific sources. The authors of the report, Charlotte Spir, Andrew Kirkby, Deo Kujirakwinja and Andrew Plumptre, went straight to the forests in an area where they lived directly with miners in their camps for three months. All the while they watched what the local people could do to eat. "Most of them would rather eat chicken, beef or fish," the authors write. "But in the case of lack of other proteins they do not gorilla or chimpanzee." And when the hunger comes, the jungle is like a table.

The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a unique place in terms of biodiversity. There are a number of critically endangered species that can become an easy prey to starving miners. Respective of various armed militias and revolutionary struggles controlling the area and hence profitable mining of minerals. "Many of our mines visited are controlled by various armed groups," the authors write. "And at about a fifth of Colt's mines, security is ensured by the presence of an army. But the presence of gunmen and the amount of weapons available have a significant negative effect on gorillas and chimpanzees. The law is practically unenforceable here. "

The authors also mention the main risks that the rangers from the protected areas make practically every day. In an effort to protect the gorillas, they are not against individual poachers, but for small armies, which the government can not even advise. In addition, an estimated 8-10 million people are living in the entire eastern region of the country, rich in rare minerals as well (estimated in 2008 to estimate the number of people employed in legal or illegal mining and processing of minerals). And they all want to eat.

"Our retrospective assessment has shown that local miners here would be happy to devote themselves to a more secure and safe job, but that offers them the certainty of a stable job and a quick source of money,"
says Charlotte Spira, lead author of the study. "Most of them do not have the need to catch meat from the forest if a different source of home-grown food is provided for them, and many of them have actively participated in the talks. If they do not have to, they will not hunt gorillas, especially if their field protection is actually enforced. "But how can that be achieved?

This is where the recommendations of WCS experts are getting much wider. However, the mining of rare metals in the national parks is the basis. This would lead to the protection of endangered animals, as well as to improve the living conditions of miners. However, this is only a matter of regulation from outside: that is, by not buying raw material extracted from the national parks. The basis for this is, for example, meeting the "Transparency of Applied Resources" directive, which deals with so-called conflict minerals.

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Conflicting minerals
Does your smart phone have a battery? Probably yes, otherwise it probably would not work. But among other things it also means that it contains tantalum, rare, hard, blue-gray, shiny, transient metal. Do you have a vibrating ringtone? Of course. But there is also tungsten in the phone, silvery white, very heavy and extremely difficult to melt metal. And does it all work together? You will not go without the cassettes that are built into the phone's circuits. And a little more coltan ores. All these minerals are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo National Parks. Their mining contributes to the devastation of the environment, the killing of endangered animals, the impoverishment of local populations and the financing of wars. Even your smart phone can do that,
says WCS .

Author: Radomír Dohnal

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