On 6 May 2014 Fr Didier de Failly SJ was in Toronto and gave a talk on his work with artisanal miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Fr Didier is a Belgian Jesuit who has lived and worked in the Congo since the 1980s. He is the director of the Bureau d’études scientifiques et techniques (BEST) based in Bukavu South-Kivu, Congo. BEST has done extensive research on the “diggers'” life, and the path of minerals from the pits to the foreign countries that purchase them.
Fr Didier spoke about the growing world demand of minerals such as coltan, tin, tungsten and gold, and how these have been labelled “conflict minerals,” but have also been seen as an opportunity of getting out of poverty for thousands of people in Eastern Congo.
Due to successive rebellions, the country has been plunged into mourning, and artisanal mining has become a dangerous and highly risky means of earning a living. Militias and often the national army take control of mining pits across the region to enrich warlords and buy arms. To stop this means of fuelling violence, Western countries have adopted specific regulations against conflict minerals, but more than half a million artisanal miners, not criminals, have made their living out of this informal and dangerous work in the Kivus.
For more information, Fr Didier has contributed to the recently published “Modes of Governance and Revenue Flows in African Mining,” edited by Bonnie Campbell.