Gold smuggling is costing the Democratic Republic of Congo £1.5m ($1.9m) in lost taxes according to a United Nations report.
Production of artisanal gold in the African nation was 333.4 kilograms last year but the country only exported 39.4 kilograms, worth about £1m, according to Mines Ministry statistics.
The huge discrepancy between production and export reflect the "significant smuggled volumes" of gold ending up in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the United Arab Emirates and Tanzania said the Group of Experts report.
The UN report published on the Security Council website, estimates a minimum of 1,100 kilograms of gold was shipped in 2019 from Congo’s north eastern Ituri province alone. If exported legally it would have generated £1.5m in taxes.
Some of the profits from the hand dug gold continue to fund militia in eastern Congo, the report said.
The illegal gold trading evades the normal banking network and instead some refineries act as brokers, using cash payments, said the group.
The annual report also highlighted that Congo is one of the “region’s largest artisanal gold producers, and yet one of its smallest official exporters."
A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2015 estimated between 10 and 15 tons of artisanal gold was produced in Congo each year. At current prices, that amount of gold would be worth up to £666 million, reports Bloomberg.