With an estimated $24 trillion in natural resources, the DRC is home to an array of mining and extractive industries, including copper, cobalt, gold, diamonds, and the 3T minerals: tin, tantalum and tungsten. The country currently accounts for 51% of the world’s extraction of cobalt and is the world’s fourth largest producer of diamonds. The DRC also boasts vast crude oil reserves that are second only to those of Angola in sub-Saharan Africa.

Due to the extent of the nation’s extractives potential – located predominantly in the eastern regions (namely North and South Kivu and the former Katanga Province) –  the sector has been a mainstay of the Congolese economy. However, the country has long been afflicted by a so-called ‘natural resource curse’, whereby members of the political elite and their patronage networks, as well as regional and illicit networks, have systematically pillaged these commodities.

Despite the introduction of international guidelines – namely Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act 2010 and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on responsible mineral-supply chains – the illicit trade remains a persistent issue, and continues to finance both local and foreign-armed groups. While rebellions and ethnic conflicts have persisted in mineral-rich areas of the eastern provinces since circa 1996, new evidence has come to light that suggests that the DRC’s natural resources wealth may be financing and proliferating conflict elsewhere on the continent.