Infographic showing Africa's coltan trade (Jon Gosier and Appafrica labs)
The Anonymous hacking collective has accused a European metals dealer of continuing to trade with DR Congo despite publicly announcing that it would stop purchasing minerals from war zones.
After hacking and leaking data from an Intel website in protest at the company's mining operations in the African country, the hacktivists attacked Traxys, a firm that offers logistical and financial services to the mining and energy industries.
Traxys pledged on 8 May, 2012 to suspend the sourcing of minerals from DR Congo in order to comply with the Consumer Protection Act, which adopted new rules for the use of "conflict minerals" originating in DR Congo.
"The Traxys Group will not knowingly purchase material that contains conflict minerals that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the DR Congo or an adjoining country," the company said at the time the pledge was made.
"The group will take steps to identify and assess risk in the supply chain and will make continued efforts to verify that minerals from the conflict region do not enter our supply chain."
According to material leaked by Anonymous, however, Traxys received an email from a dealer known as Thierry Salvakalumba on 18 May which shows that the firm is "clearly interested in DR Congo's lead ore". The seller, who is based in Africa but uses a Yahoo France account, illegally moved the trading from DR Congo to Zambia to protect the company's reputation.
The email read: "Hi, we are here by to let you know that we are able to supply this product to you. The quantity available now is 30000Mt [metric tonnes] and the grade is between 65%pb and 72%pb [lead content], not less then that. Right now, we have started moving the lead ore from DRC to our warehouse in Chingola, Zambia. Plz let us know if you are interested. Regards Thierry."
From the email it is clear that the seller is trying to move the lead ore, which originated in Congo, to Zambia so "no one can prove that the lead ore is dug in Congo", Anonymous said.
"This permits Traxys to say that they really believe that the lead ore is from Zambia and not from Congo."
Trading coltan, the 'blood tantalum'
In December 2008, UN investigators implicated Traxys in the alleged purchase of materials from militia groups in DR Congo.
In response, the company announced that it had immediately stopped sourcing minerals from DR Congo's eastern provinces, where the UN experts had reported that the company was purchasing casserite (tin ore) and coltan (tantalum ore) from traders in DR Congo.
These buying houses, or comptoirs, had purchased the minerals from sources directly linked to rebels from the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). The rebel group is run by Hutu extremists in DR Congo, who engaged in bloody reprisal killings that caused more than 100,000 civilians to flee their homes in 2008.
The UN report also stated that Traxys was pre-financing the comptoirs, "acknowledging a chain of financing that flows from the foreign companies down to the FDLR-controlled mining pit".
Anonymous leaked another e-mail to Traxys from a Danish dealer, which allegedly proves that the company is still trading coltan from DR Congo.
The e-mail read: "Dear Traxys, We have access to some Tantal & Niobium ( Coltan ) 5 tons pr. month and are looking for a partner to process and refine this. Please contact us. Best regards Steen B."
Giant computer and electronic firms such as Apple, Intel, IBM, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung were accused of indirectly causing the DR Congo war which ran from 1998 to 2003 because of their use of coltan, or colombo-tantalite, in the production of mobile phones, video games, computers and home electronics.
During the war, rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda invaded from the east and ultimately toppled the DR Congo dictator Mobotu Sese Seko.
In 2012, ex-rebel leader Jean Bosco Ntaganda was accused of causing further clashes between the army and his own loyal forces in the eastern region of Kivu.
Some aid organisations estimate that over five million people have died in the area since 1998.
Human rights groups such as Raid, the Rainforest Foundation and Global Witness launched the "No blood on my cell phone" campaign in Europe to lobby for an embargo on so-called "blood tantalum".
Traxys is a company based in Belgium that is owned by three American investment banks, two in New York (Pegasus Capital Advisors, Kelso & Company) and one in Denver, Colorado (Resource Capital Funds), according to the company's website.
IBTimes UK approached Traxys for a comment twice but the company failed to respond.
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