The Durban Process began in March 2001 with an open letter I wrote to the information technology and mining industries, in response to problems arising from coltan mining in Kahuzi Biega National Park, in South Kivu, D.R. Congo.
It caused some friction with international NGOs, who were campaigning for an all-out embargo of coltan from Congo, but the Durban Process was warmly welcomed by the Congolese, who considered it a more realistic approach, to create a forum that included all stakeholders, and take a grassroots point of view. They understood that this gave the initiative sustainability.
Two years later, after extensive research (which included a scoping study that identified all the key stakeholders), the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Independent Projects Trust hosted a meeting for all the stakeholders at Tala Game Lodge, in Durban, South Africa, 28-30 July 2003, which was funded by Leonardo DiCaprio. The aim of the meeting was to facilitate solutions and dialogue around the issues of mining in the national park and the impact it was having on the gorilla population. It brought together people involved in coltan mining, park protection and in key positions in the D.R. Congo government, for three days of discussion to explore possible solutions which might at the same time improve conditions for the miners and guarantee the integrity of the park.
Our efforts were widely reported in the press, most notably “Digging a grave for King Kong?” in The Economist newspaper. We also hosted an online chat with patrons, Leonardo DiCaprio and Arthur C. Clarke, to raise awareness of the crisis.
To show the impact mining was having on the environment, I accompanied a BBC film crew to make ‘Apes in Danger’, and Turner Prize-winning video artist Steve McQueen to make ‘Gravesend’, into the heart of the Congo jungle.
In addition, articles were published in the Independent, The Guardian, and The Observer and programmes about the Durban Process were broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK and CBC Radio in Canada.