James D. Bindenagel: Long-term sustainable industrialization in the context of climate change

"VAN" (Europe Bureau - Aleksey Vesyoliy) :: Interview with Ambassador James D. Bindenagel on the very important topic of Kinshasa Process on Sustainable Mining in Africa.

We spoke on Friday January 21 with Ambassador James D. Bindenagel, one of the promoters of the Kinshasa Process on Sustainable Mining. Announced in November 2021, on the sidelines of the DRC Africa business Forum, by Roland Schatz, the founder of the United Nations Institute of Sustainable Development Indices (UNGSII), the editorial staff has the privilege of doing it for you discover a little more in detail the Kinshasa Process.

— Ambassador James D. Bindenagel, good evening!

What are your first impressions when you arrive in Kinshasa?

— This is my first visit and I'm very impressed. First, by the number of people and then, by the energy generated. This energy is really motivating. I look forward to being able to tell people about a very interesting project that will not only benefit the Congolese, but also serve as an example for many other countries to know how to share the wealth of mineral resources and other resources with the people.

— What is the Kinshasa process on sustainable mining?

— The Kinshasa process is the name that the Congolese chose for themselves, during a negotiation in which I was involved with the United States, in relation to conflict diamonds twenty years ago. At the end of these negotiations, the Kimberly certification process was born. It was an important scheme to promote clean diamonds, thereby ending the exploitation of artisanal diamond diggers in the mines. This situation at the time is very similar to what is happening today not only in Congo but also in other places. So what are we talking about? We are talking about a certification process. A process that does not deprive miners, mining companies, of the right to exploit – to process – and to sell the minerals but which tends to certify them to ensure that everything is clean. This is the only way to honor the people who own these resources, and the case here of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have referred to it as the "Kinshasa process", but it is in principle a certification, a means of ensuring that the market values ​​of the minerals which are extracted from the Congo are shared with the country of origin.

— How to ensure the involvement of the local population for the advancement of the Kinshasa process?

— To achieve a certification system that is truly functional, one of the key elements is to have a government in place. Because it is up to a government to define what must be done legitimately before the exploitation and marketing of minerals. Second, the mining industry itself must own the process as a system that helps it increase its ability to mine legitimately. To these two elements is added a third which is decisive: it is knowing how to bring miners, particularly the artisanal ones, where we find children and women who are forced to work to earn a living, to bring them to realize, that 'it's better to have a certification system where they get more profit from the legitimate sale of minerals and it will improve their lives. There is an analogy with the Kimberly process for diamond certification. In this process, a development initiative was set up to specifically answer the questions of artisanal miners and to improve their daily lives. That's what it's all about in what we want to do. We have to deal with a government that is focused on resolving the issue not for the benefit of a particular minister, or let's say for some project, but for long-term sustainable industrialization, and this, also in the context of change climate and the environment.

— What role can civil society and religious leaders play in this process?

— The issue in question is dynamic. When you commit to setting up a certification system there will be people who will oppose it. Why that ? Because previously they were not conditioned by rules. But let's try to balance it with the other side, all those people who are exploited in artisanal mining or those who work there, that their lives can be improved through the legitimate sale of minerals. So in view of the situation, the international community will turn to the Congo to say that you have a human rights problem with artisanal miners. The international community has already complained about the situation and we are aware of the problem. We know that some of the elements that come into play include corruption and other issues that make the process illegitimate. All the government is trying to do through this process is how to make the process (of extracting and trading minerals) legitimate to better serve its people. And that is most important so that artisanal miners enjoy treatment that works to improve their lives. It is the primary responsibility of the Government to address these kinds of issues. At this stage, civil society has already pointed out the difficulties and suffering of these people. Civil society has built a very good case against what is happening but now they can bring this case not to complain but to act.

— Is there anything else you would like to add?

— Carrying out this process is not easy. But more importantly this is not a project but rather a systemic change. Let me refer again to the Kimberly process. Twenty years ago, the sale of illicit diamonds represented around 4 or 5% of the market and today it is less than 0.4% of the market and living conditions have improved significantly. I would cite the Republic of Botswana, from my point of view, as the best example. Botswana was able to recover the market value of its diamonds and was able to get its government to intervene in the market. The share of profit from government investment has been used for building infrastructure and education, because a country's most important resource is not cobalt, lithium or any other minerals. but it is in fact its population. Botswana has invested in its people and I have the impression that this is what the Congolese government would like to do too.

The story @ EUNetwork.lv


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