Study on dredges practices in Shabunda: “La ruée vers l’or à Shabunda “(gold rush in shabunda)
The territory of Shabunda is at the moment experiencing a gold rush. There are several rivers rich in gold, meandering across the largest territory of South Kivu province. In the North, both the Lugulu and Ulindi rivers flow through Shabunda Centre, the capital of the territory. For almost a year, the local population of Shabunda has observed an exponential increase of mining activities on these rivers. At the time of publication of this study 175 suction dredges operated by teams of artisanal miners are active mostly on Ulindi River. Despite the importance of the phenomenon of dredges in Shabunda in terms of gold production, but also in terms of negative impact on the peace process and on the environment, to the knowledge of the authors of this study, this is the first study dedicated to shed light on the practices of dredges. Download the complete report
The study shows that 175 suction dredges and four industrial bucket dredges produce over 660 kg of gold per month, which amounts to almost 8 tons annually. The entire production leaves the country illegally financing armed groups and other illicit actors in the mining sector. A Chinese company called Kunhou Mining Group started to operate in an area occupied by the armed group Raia Mutomboki with four completely mechanized bucket chain dredges since its formal inauguration in the presence of local and provincial authorities in September 2014. Despite the illegality of these operations, the Chinese company holds close relations with the South Kivu authorities, particularly with the Ministry of Mines. The Chinese company assures the authorities’ support by paying allowances for their official missions and the distribution of generous bribes.In the mining code and the mining regulation in force, there are no specific provisions that explicitly regulate the exploitation by dredges. The regulation by way of decrees contradicting each other respectively the national laws leads to confusion and impedes the formalization of this sector.
As a matter of fact, this situation facilitates the involvement of politicians and administrative and military authorities in Bukavu in the illegal exploitation through dredges. A proliferation of levies imposed on operators of suction dredges can be observed; most of these levies have no legal basis. SAESSCAM claims 10% of the production and makes use of force of elements of the FARDC and the Police of Mines to recover the levy. This way SAESSCAM levies about 1.3 million USD per month from dredge operators, including 250 000 USD in the area occupied by Raia Mutomboki. In that area SAESSCAM works closely with the armed groups to collect the levies. The largest share of the levy is not disbursed to the treasury and therefore these huge amounts do not contribute to the development of Shabunda territory that lacks almost all infrastructure and whose population suffers from great poverty.
Apart from SAESSCAM also the Chiefdom of Bakisi cooperates with the Raia Mutumboki. The traditional authorities even delegate the taxation by tax booklet to the armed group. This way the chiefdom collects each month an impressive amount of approximately 1.6 million USD on the gold production of dredges without leaving any traces on the local development. The intensive mining activities don’t leave the environment untouched and the heavy use of mercury is particularly alarming. Neither farmers nor the local population are aware of its harmful effects on the human health. The government agencies SAESSCAM and the Division of Mines are neglecting their tasks and thus jeopardize an entire aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem. The authors of this study identify inconsistencies and shortcomings and make recommendations related to all problems identified in this report. Their implementation is of highest priority in order to improve the manifold problems characterizing the mining operations by dredges in Shabunda.