Decision : CONF 205 V.15-17
Okapi Wildlife Reserve (DRC)
V.15 This site too has been threatened by coltan miners. Efforts to control poaching and mining have been somewhat more successful in Okapi than in Kahuzi Biega. The armed forces of Uganda assisted the staff to evict several poachers from Okapi in late 2000. The leader of the rebel group in control of this part of the DRC territory had ordered the removal of all miners from the site. Effective action is being taken by the staff and the rebel forces in the area and the threat to this site from miners and poachers has been brought under some degree of control relative to the situation in Kahuzi Biega. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) of USA had written to concerned authorities in Uganda appreciating their support for the conservation of Okapi. However, WCS had expressed its strong objection to an incident where some Ugandan soldiers had allegedly assaulted a staff member of Okapi. WCS requested the Ugandan authorities to investigate the matter and take measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. The Ugandan forces have withdrawn from the area in response to recent peace initiatives encouraged by the new President of the DRC. Coltan miners appear to be returning to the area. WCS has reported that the miners' activity in the periphery of the Reserve has increased and that staff capacity needs to be urgently strengthened in order to stabilise the state of conservation of the site.
V.16 The Tantalum-Niobium International Study Centre (T.I.C.) located in Brussels, Belgium, estimates that less than 15% of the world's tantalum supply comes from Africa. T.I.C. in Brussels, Belgium, has issued a press statement condemning the illegal mining in Kahuzi Biega and Okapi and in other protected areas of DRC. The T.I.C. has agreed to:
- inform its 66 member companies around the world of the issues surrounding the illegal activities and their consequences;
- support the efforts of relevant authorities to enforce an immediate removal of miners from within the boundaries of the national parks; and
- encourage major processors to obtain their tantalum and niobium supplies from lawful sources in Africa and other parts of the world and refrain from purchasing materials from regions where either the environment or wildlife is threatened.
V.17 An appeal was made by the Director General of IUCN in March 2001 to the Heads of States in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda and to world-wide media and interest groups, calling upon buyers of coltan to ensure that they are purchasing the product from lawful sources outside of World Heritage sites. The IUCN appeal called on the Governments of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda to help enforce the immediate removal of miners from within the boundaries of both affected sites, and invited the three Governments concerned and the buyers of coltan to take necessary steps to find alternative livelihoods for all miners evicted from World Heritage sites of the DRC.