Numerous initiatives are currently trying to reform eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) ill-reputed artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector through formalisation, traceability, and certification of the region’s trade in tantalum, tin, and tungsten (3T). While this ethically driven impetus derives from consumer pressure following numerous reports on the militarisation of the area’s ASM sector and concomitant human rights abuses, the ability of the resulting initiatives to address these problems remains unclear. In this paper, we enhance long-term qualitative research with an experimental quantitative survey to generate insights into two questions: how has the formalisation of eastern DRC’s resource markets, through traceability and certification, altered the socio-economic dynamics around artisanal mines and trading routes? What is its actual impact on the everyday life of miners, their families, and associated professions? Based on in-depth research in South Kivu, a pioneer case for traceability and certification of 3T mining, we demonstrate the ambiguous outcome of these reforms so far and analyse how they threaten an informal ASM sector already in jeopardy. In figurative terms, the artisanal miners themselves have become a proverbial ‘miner’s canary’ whose livelihoods are increasingly under stress in sequence to formalisation efforts.

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Extractive Industries and Society

Vogel, C., Musamba, J., & Radley, B. (2017). A Miner's Canary in Eastern Congo. Extractive Industries and Society, 5(1), 73–80. doi:10.1016/j.exis.2017.09.003