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Coordinates: 1°2′S 27°44′E / 1.033°S 27.733°E / -1.033; 27.733

Bisie is a township of 10,000 in the Walikale territory, province of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), an illegal source of an estimated 15,000 tons of tin, or 4% of global production.[1] Bisie was established following the discovery of cassiterite by a hunter, and led to a frenzy. Following the Second Congo War, the Mai Mai - allied militia in the area was to form the 85th brigade of the national army and receive training and evenly deployed throughout the DRC. The militia refused, and under the leadership of Colonel Samy Matumo, the production and transport of tin, and the economy of Bisie is largely controlled by the renegade militia. It is estimated that production of tin is as high as $100 million a year. It is estimated that the militia extorts $300–600,000 a month in illegal taxation on everything from transport into the mine, to mud huts ($50 a month), and sales taxes ($20 a week from small peddlers). Though tin is the lifeblood of the economy of Bisie, the militia have built large hotels, brothels and bars.

Tin is mined by hand through open cast mining, and put in bags that weigh in excess of 110 pounds, and dropped off at a central location, where it is transported on foot by individuals for over 30 miles, typically over 2 days. From there it is driven to the village of Kilambo, where it is transported via Soviet-style cargo planes to Goma, where it is sold to international dealers, such as Malaysia Smelting Corporation. The militia controls the entire area, only allowing people who pay their taxes. While Mining and Processing Congo, a consortium of British and South African investors, bought rights in 2006, the militia has thwarted any attempt by them to arrive in the area, having in the past shot and injured people who came to the area in association with the company.

While the mine is illegal, the political and economic situation is complex. Any abrupt closing of the mine would cause more chaos in the region, with the militia and thousands of people depending on the mine being out of business. The mine has been intimately tied to world markets, as in October 2008, prices of tin increased 37% at the end of the month with news of fighting in the region.[2] According to some watching the conflict, the fact that a transition is not being made from the militia to a legal form of production indicates corruption at the regional and federal levels of the DRC.

The FARDC's 85th non-integrated Brigade has recently been redeployed. Bisie Mine is now under the control of "former" CNDP forces who are integrating into the FARDC.[3]


  1. ^ The Spoils: Congo's Riches, Looted by Renegade Troops. New York Times. Nov 15, 2008.
  2. ^ ANALYSIS-Tin price spike shows Congo's growing origin role. Reuters.
  3. ^ Correspondence with Global Witness, via, accessed July 2009

External links[edit]

  • The Incredible Story of Conflict Mineral Mining in Images; [1]
  • Conflict mineral exploitation at Bisie, D.R. Congo, photography by Mark Craemer, 2008 [2]

Further reading[edit]

  • Nicholas Garrett; Sylvia Sergiou; Koen Vlassenroot, 'Negotiated Peace for Extortion: the case of Walikale territory in Eastern DR Congo,' Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol. 3, issue 1, 2009