In congo’s largest coltan mine, all multimedia content from the german wave, dw

The Rubaya open-cast mine is located in the east of the Congo, in the province of North Kivu. The mine is the most important employer in the region and determines the lives of people in the area.

Storage for coveted minerals

The Rubaya mine is located high up in the mountains of the Masisi region. In the volcanic region, fractures run like deep cracks through the earth. Rare minerals and ores are stored in it. Because it rains a lot and heavy, the coltan ore is washed out of the mountain over numerous rivers and collects in the river bed. The Eastern Congo has one of the largest coltan deposits in the world.

Raw material for cell phones, radios and batteries

Coltan is sought after, but rare. This produces tantalum, which is processed in almost every everyday electronic device. The raw material from the Congo was long regarded as "blood commodity", because it is used to finance rebels. Numerous mines in the Congo are occupied by militias and soldiers from the army. They take off the coltan from the miners by force of arms.

Dispute over land and mining rights

The Rubaya mine was also long controlled by militias. State mining rights had secured a member of an influential Tutsi family in 2006, which previously participated in numerous rebellions. The majority of the population and miners are from the Hutu ethnic group. They claim the minerals and the land rights for themselves.

Shop instead of weapons

The compromise: the population founded a cooperative with around 3,500 members. The men put down their weapons and picked up the shovels again. The mining company is now buying the minerals from the cooperative. The mine has been in operation since 2012 "green" classified: It is considered free of militias and child labor. Since then it has been exported from the Congo again .

Hard work for ten euros a day

Over 50,000 miners work in total in Ruabya: young men without a school leaving certificate, some even underage. The ban on child labor is not really controlled. All are glad to make money at all. About ten euros a day – a lot of money in the Congo. "We do not know what is made of the minerals and where they are exported to", say the prospectors.

Unrest in the economic center

The city Rubaya below the mine is considered a thriving commercial center. But in the past four months, the economy has been down. The mining company accused the cooperative of having illegally sold some of the material it obtained to other dealers and had the mine closed. An agreement was only reached in August. The miners are back, the economy is recovering.

Fear of customers

Innocent Ibrahim notices daily how strongly the economy in the Eastern Congo depends on the minerals. In his small shop he sells building materials: cement, paints, screws, Tool. But things have been going badly in recent months: "There was simply no money in circulation, people didn’t build houses, I hardly had any customers." With the reopening of the mine will be built again, he says.


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Christina Cherry
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