* Posts by Ray Vecchio

16 posts • joined 2 Nov 2010

Rocks, hard places and Congo minerals

Ray Vecchio

Canada mining firm sued over role in DR Congo conflict (BBC)

This is a good thing...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11725651

As the army is also complicit in some of the problems in the Kivu area...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11722142

Looking at the soldiers uniforms I wonder where come from? Russian or Chinese? it seems to me.

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Ray Vecchio

Indeed...

as Ray hated computers...

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Ray Vecchio

Thanks Tim...

The tantalum is only an incidental bonus in the Congo... Cobalt is a main driver...

You have to lump the Congo and Zambia Cobalt numbers together...

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/cobalt/mcs-2010-cobal.pdf

and there is your answer those guys in the congo are swimming in the stuff...

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Ray Vecchio

tantalum...

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Ray Vecchio

it is 50% of Cobalt... not tantalium

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Ray Vecchio

Thanks... for the pointer to the film

And THAT is exactly ONE of the points... these mining companies that do not operate within normal govermental/environmental guidelines (because there is no effective government) are allowed to flout THEIR environmental responsibilty. In Kivu the situation is slightly different, here people are effectively just digging and panning the stuff out of the earth some with common gardening tools! (just a thought I wonder who is providing that... it would be interesting to follow that trail too)

We have the power (we can hope... seems a lot of people marching in London against he iraq war did not do much to stop it... but try we must) as the conscientious end users to force our own countries to improve the governance for these companies...

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Ray Vecchio

As I said... like Sierra Leone...

I think what the british accomplished there with the help of a few PMC's (quite a few of my fellow soldiers) and seems to be working... for now at least.

Have a read of the "Bottom Billion" Paul Collier has some interesting concepts.

You mention for a generation of two... well been there done, and don't want the T-Shirt... it took me a long time to be able sleep peacefully.

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Ray Vecchio

No... really...

I think the issue is that companies exploited the traditional rivalries... remember the weapons these guys use come from the west and east, they have to pay for these weapons, now given that they can hardly feed themselves what do they use to pay? well the stuff the west needs and wants, These guys do not go to the west and say hey! we have stuff that you might be able to use to build turbine engines and mobile phones, the demand is the other way round...

These people would not even BEGIN to know how to lay a guilt trip, they are to busy trying to survive... nor have they the power OR the money (remember they got given weapons) to be able to highlight the issues or drive a media campaign...

Lumumba (Kennedy quite liked him) was killed by foreign agents, it seems the CIA had some involvement in the incident, and the US then proceeded to install Mobutu. The diamonds and ores are sold on global markets, but not by african companies (correction... not any more... think De Beers/Anglo American, which is British now, with orignal investment for britian and the Rothchilds), but by western companies.

In the coldwar the congo was *nearly* the *exclusive* supplier of cobalt for US planes in one of the congressional reports on strategic minerals there is a nice pic with this caption "Chromium and cobalt are essential in jet engines of high-performance military aircraft such as this U.S. Air Force F-16" The cobalt from the the Congo and the Chrome from SA and Zim. Belguim was probably more exploitative than many of the colonial powers, have a look on Youtube there is a series from the BBC that someone uploaded about the tactics used by the Belgians, but be warned if you cannot stand seeing piles of human hands or huge groups of people without a right hands (because they did not bring in enough rubber... rubber NOT used by them but the west).

The cell phone user can do SOMETHING IF they are aware of what their use of these cool gadgets causing to happen in the Congo, they helped to some extent improve working conditions in sweatshops and reduce the use of child labour once people became appalled by what was shown to them. So I think we as western consumers have some duty as can at least affect our governments (HOPEFULLY) to help these people who cannot.

Again the colonial powers drew the borders of these countries with now thought as to the orginal tribal (kingdom) borders, what helped the European countries in those days was that there were no written records of African history.

Having said all that... In many ways a lot of the african countries were better off in colonial days (NOT Congo though), the british empire did bad things BUT on the whole MUCH better than what things are today and the reason is they had access to markets, ie the country running the colony and extracting the resources had access to a market, AND because they were responsible for the populace, for labour etc the people lived a much better life, and THAT cost the colonial country a lot of money... NOW the role of the a colonial country has been replaced by global corporations and they have to global to access the markets, and they have NO responsibilty for the populace, or the environment, all that they need is the bags filled with coltan everytime plane lands to take the next shipment off... We are the only ones that can affect the change as those corporations I betcha will not... as it cost them more.

In some African countries the only way correct the situation is regime change, I am afraid as Sierra Leone proved...

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Ray Vecchio

I think it is moral obligation to fellow humans...

I agree with several of your points,

1) aid pop singers etc... Aid IMO is the WORST thing you can do for Africa... (stop donating silly clothes to africa it has killed the few clothing factories in Africa)

2) Stop dealing with presidents... indeed! I agree...

The point about the Congo is due to a freak of nature this place has this one element Cobalt ...(Goblin ore (why does it conjure up images of Lord of the Rings)) and that is it scourge...

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Ray Vecchio

very interesting... Speaking Congo...back in 1978... there was a similar Cobalt bubble...

What happened was this... the Soviet Union started buy Cobalt like crazy... and the price went sky high, the US could not figure out what was going on until there was a Cuban led incursion from Angola into Shaba Province ((Katanga) Southern Congo) to occupy some of the mines, so as to cut the USA's cobalt supply... a bunch of merceneries (I think as the CIA used to have a base there in the South Congo) repulsed them. It would not have hurt the US as they keep (or kept, I believe some has been sold off) at least a 2 year supply of any strategic mineral in stockpiles.

The Enough Project looks VERY VERY good!! Thanks...

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Ray Vecchio

I was wrong...

as I opened the diswasher, something shook lose from a neural network that said Zinc... it is Zinc and Cadmium that occur in a specific ratio in nature...

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Ray Vecchio

from the deep recessess of my aging brain

I seem to recall natural tin and cadium had a specific ratio, but once melted down it was obliterated, Yes you are right once cannot easily pinpoint the metals once melted...

these guys will take the path of least resistance, the move needs to start at government level but as I said above it is enourmously difficult to police. The chinese investing in infrastructure in the surround countries is massive with one goal insight to sate its thirst for minerals... in a bizarre way it is the interest of the developed world to keep these african countries in a state of instability,

1) it is cheaper to bribe people than pay proper taxes, and no environmental responsibilities.

2) the aid agencies exacerbate, the situation as the governments need not take responsibilty for its citizens.

3) The tragedy is that the citizens do not feel as if they are incontrol of their own destiny hence throw their hands in the air, and accept yet another goverment.

4) arms sales skyrocket, and the PMC's make tonnes of cash training these militias.

etc..

in the end the corporations deliver quarter on quarter beter shareholder value... and as the consumers are so far removed from what their consumption is causing that it is hard to make people realise that their precious mobile device is indirectly the cause of these people's suffering.

Ironically I think China is going to be forced to look to africa as a new supply of consumers... the same way tobacco companies were forced to change their target audience...

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Ray Vecchio

Competitor no... very little competition...

I think the order of magnitude is a bit different in the DRC, 2.5+ million killed in this ongoing resource war, since 1998. The method of warfare is particularly stomach turning, rape of women and children (there was a particularly harrowing BBC3 programme about this), the aid agencies to their best to patch these people up then the next wave comes and so on and each time a new crop of child soldier can be swept up... As for De Beer, this was a company (and now is I think) being run from the UK, Cecil John Rhodes, with his zeal to extend the British Empire. So I think you would agree morally it is a pretty bad situation, in the south DRC there is proper mining taking place, but that coltan has to be transported via Zambia and Zim, then SA... the stuff in a cobalt salt form gets exported via Richardsbay.

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Ray Vecchio

Well I would suggest not an Old story just an ongoing one...

The body count is around 2.5 million (the orginal was 5 million) people since 1998 and climbing.

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Ray Vecchio

Looking at the question asked...

One can look back to the 1970's when the UK was importing and enriching Namibian uranium, supplied by the Apartheid government and Rio Tinto Zinc and how the uranium was laundered with the aid of French company... Tony Benn was mighty upset after having been duped by RTZ he claimed, because they apparently never stated that the uranium came from Namibia.

So now we have a similar situation, the difference being that the DRC is *nearly* the sole provider of cobalt, and I seem to recall there are only a few smelters capable of producing the high temperature alloys. I see the katanga (alone) area produces 40% of the total worlds cobalt. My guess is the Kivu province's contribution is not even factored in as it is all illegally (I use the term legal here in its broadest sense) mined. The problem is will WE be prepared to pay more for our electronic gadgets? I think the situation will change towards 2012 when China complete the Benguela railway line, then they have access to one of africa's treasure chests...

As an asside there is also some oil in the north of the DRC, on the Sudanese/Ugandan, the area where the LRA operate.

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Ray Vecchio

Coltan conundrum...

When looking at conflicts in africa remember this... there are NO industrial scale arms manufacturing facilities in Africa apart from South Africa... these weapons cost money and those poor africans have to exchange something for the money to buy the weapons... so the questions to look at... is

a) what is being giving in return for money OR weapons...

b) what happens with the stuff that is given... who takes it and where does it end up...

Some more background

This area of the world has been at the hub of a lot of conflict in Africa, mainly for the cobalt... one BIG uses (apart from delft blue porcelian, and of course mobile phone) for cobalt is in high temp steel alloys, like those used in missile engines and jet turbine blades... (in the coldwar this was the USA's only source!! as there are smaller deposits) have look at which countries produce those... the history of these conflict revolve mainly around cobalt the other minerals are also important lots of copper in the south katanga/shaba province around 70-80% of our planets cobalt is in this country... During the Angolan war the Benguela railway line was cut by SA and UNITA forces, this was the only rail access to Katanga, from then onwards ALL the USA's cobalt supplies from that area flowed through Zambia into Zimbabwe(this is BTW of od Mr Mugabe's revenue streams letting those trucks pass safely through), and South Africa (where it gets extracted and concentrated) and out to the US... NOW the biggest demand is from China.

The same area also contained a lot of uranium all the uranium that was used in the Hiroshima bomb came from the Congo... supplied to the US by a Belguim company, RTZ also had some fingers in the pie

It is a very rich (and traumatised) chunk of the planet...

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