The Geological Scandal that is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) mineral map (Source: Atlas du continent africain, Jeune Afrique et editions Jaguar, 2000)

Last week, a reader asked us why the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is often referred to as a “geological scandal” of nature. For starters, the DRC is one of the world’s richest countries in natural resources, with the richest concentrations of precious metals and minerals on earth, with large deposits of gold, diamonds, uranium, copper, cobalt, tungsten, coltan, bauxite, cassiterite, and much more. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), it has about 75% of the world’s coltan, the material at the heart of the mobile phone revolution; about 70% of the world’s cobalt reserves, over 30% of diamond, 10% of copper. The uranium used for the bombs that detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from the DRC. The electrical car battery revolution is all based on Congo’s wealth; there is no way the West can sustain an electrical car industry without Congo and its reserves. Apart from mineral wealth, the DRC is also one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.

Unfortunately, this abundance of internationally valued minerals and natural resources has however failed to bring any kind of prosperity to the country. It began with colonial exploitation of the land and its people by King Leopold II (King Leopold II and The Congolese Genocide), and continued in bloody civil war; the Congolese have harvested nothing from their country’s natural riches but misery and poverty. The world’s bloodiest conflict since World War II is still going on today on Congo soil, and has made over five million deaths…

For more, check out the article by Colette Braeckman, The Looting of the Congo, BBC – DR Congo: Cursed by its natural wealth and the extensive articles written by a fellow blogger at WiPoKuli Schluter. We had found a good documentary a while back about Congo’s resources, but somehow it is no longer available. So I live you instead with The Race for Africa by Gravitas Plus, which actually helps to understand the importance of Africa (and Congo) today, and the race for its resources. Enjoy!