INTERNATIONAL NEWS - The UN Security Council called Thursday for "sustained efforts" in preventing the illegal trade of natural resources from the DR Congo, as gold in particular fuels conflict between armed groups in the region.
The Council's 15 member states also renewed UN sanctions on the country for the period of a year, allowing for both individuals and groups to be targeted.
In a statement following a videoconference, the Council expressed concern over "continued illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources" while calling for "sustained efforts to prevent" such practices.
UN experts who monitor implementation of the sanctions detailed multiple cases of trafficking in a recent report, stating that gold from the country was flowing into Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the United Arab Emirates and Tanzania.
The document specified that the United Arab Emirates promised to tighten controls on the source of gold arriving in the country.
"The group traced Congolese gold to regional refineries and other international destinations and found that some refineries acted as brokers, used cash payments, undertook refiner-to-refiner trading and used corporate networks to obscure ownership, thereby inhibiting supply chain accountability," the report said.
"Gold traders also avoided the use of formal banking networks," it noted.
The experts added that "in terms of natural resources, the Congolese gold sector remained vulnerable to exploitation by armed groups and criminal networks and to unregulated trading."
The volume of gold smuggled from the country was significantly higher than the amount legally traded, they noted.
DR Congo sits on top of large reserves of cobalt, copper, gold and other valuable minerals, but is nonetheless one of the world's poorest countries, with average per capita revenue of $490, according to World Bank data.