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Mining corruption: mugging on an international scale

United Kingdom
Human Rights
Congo, Democratic Republic of
On 11 June, Global Witness released a report claiming there is evidence to show that a close relationship between Israeli businessman Dan Gertler and Congolese President Joseph Kabila allowed Gertler to buy interests in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) mining assets at bargain rates.

The report states that between September 2009 and July 2011, mining group Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) acquired over $2 billion of copper and cobalt mines in the DRC. The deals have seen ENRC make large payments to offshore and secretive shell companies associated with Mr Gertler. These offshore companies secretly snapped up prize mining assets at vastly undervalued prices and quickly sold them on to ENRC. One mine was sold on to ENRC at five times the original price.

This kind of insider dealing and corruption at government level is business as usual for mining corporations, a well-worn strategy in an industry where the main movers have long become detached from the consequences of their actions. In this case, a few individuals reap huge sums of cash that never feed back to the people of the country.

‘The nature of these deals raises serious questions about whether corrupt Congolese officials could be benefitting from Congo’s considerable mineral wealth at the expense of the Congolese people,’ said Daniel Balint-Kurti, Campaign Leader for the Democratic Republic of Congo at Global Witness. ‘The Congolese state has foregone billions of dollars in revenues by secretly selling off its assets on the cheap to offshore companies. With so much at stake in one of the poorest countries on the planet, ENRC must do the right thing and shed full light on its dealings.’

But where is any genuine pressure for governments to ‘do the right thing’? It seems if there are huge sums to be made the law is suddenly something to be left flapping ineffectually in the wind. Where is the legislation that corporations and businessmen like Gertler can be brought to justice and punished for such crimes? Where is the same kind of protection for the people of the DRC or the Philippines, Peru or West Papua that is enjoyed by any Western tourist who may be mugged while on some exotic holiday?

Because, make no mistake, these practices are mugging on an international scale. The corporations are hardly thugs in the night with knives, instead, they are well suited, live in Hampstead or Belgravia and have dinner with world leaders. But, the impact they have on the world, in terms of the environment and human rights makes this the greatest mugging spree in history, the kind that is going to leave this planet a wasteland and our species hanging on by a thread.

For the first time, UK activists have brought together a coalition of majority world and minority world groups standing together against the inequities of the mining and extraction corporations. From tar sands, Climate Camp and Occupy activists, to Congolese, Somalian, West Papuan, Latin American, Filipino and Nigerian activists, the Carnival of Dirt seeks to shine a spotlight on this most abhorrent and flagrantly destructive of industries.

For their first action, they are seeking to highlight one of the most strikingly common aspects of this trade, the regular murder or disappearing of majority world activists who have dared to challenge the activities on mining corporations in their country. Seeing London as the centre of this global industry, they have chosen to hold a funeral procession starting outside the London Stock Exchange from 11am on 15 June.

The rest of the day will see a picnic where people share the food from their countries as a roster of speakers give accounts of their experiences followed by a Reclaim the Streets-style party in the evening, to celebrate the coming together of these voices and the fact that a better world is possible for all once we work together to demand it.

Twitter: @carnivalofdirt

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