Illegal mining continues a decade after The Gorilla Organization helped to reduce the impact of mineral extraction
Illegal mining for key smartphone minerals continues a decade after The Gorilla Organization helped to reduce the impact of mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ian Redmond OBE, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, accompanied Daily Mirror reporter Tom Parry and photographer Rowan Griffiths for their front-page investigation.
The organization brought governments, local community groups and the electronics industry together from 2003 to 2008 to create the Durban Process for Ethical Mining.
Jillian Miller, executive director of The Gorilla Organization, said: “The Daily Mirror’s investigation has highlighted the ongoing threat to gorilla populations from illegal mining for blood minerals.
“The demand for these rare metals has devastated the eastern lowland gorillas, and it is essential that we continue to work with local communities and support the work of the park rangers.
“When local people can support their families with farming and other safe activities which do not harm the gorillas, they are happy to turn away from the dangerous practise of illegal mining.”
A decade ago, miners had flooded the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the Congo as the boom in smartphones and games consoles caused the price of the rare mineral tantalum to soar.
Eastern lowland gorillas living in the park suffered a devastating decline as they were hunted for bushmeat and their habitats were destroyed by the miners and armed militias who control the trade in coltan ore, which is processed to produce tantalum.
Coltan mining declined in response to the Durban Process and a fall in the price of tantalum, by which time just a few thousand gorillas were left living in the wild.
While coltan isn’t priced at the $600 per kilo it could fetch at its peak, along with other metals like tin it’s still valuable enough to make the dangerous mining by hand worthwhile.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature put the eastern lowland gorilla on its Red List in 2016 as the population continued to decline.
The Gorilla Organization helps local groups train miners and their families to turn to less damaging activities outside the national park, like farming, as well as training and supporting park rangers to prevent illegal mining and forest clearance.