Judges' Special Recognition
Gold miners form a human chain, passing pans of mud up a slope while digging an open pit at the Chudja mine in the Kilomoto concession near the village of Kobu, 100 km (62 miles) from Bunia in northeastern Congo, February 23, 2009. Gold prices rose to all-time record highs of $1,218 per ounce in 2009 as worries about the global economic recovery encouraged buying of the metal as a safe haven investment. Meanwhile, the Congolese Army continues to funnel weapons to rebel groups smuggling millions of dollars in gold and other minerals out of Congo, helping sustain one of Africa's bloodiest and most complicated wars, according to a United Nations report published in December 2009. Congolese officials estimate that 80,000 pounds of gold are smuggled out of the country each year, which at today's high gold prices is worth more than $1 billion, much of it going straight into rebel hands, according to the report. Civil conflict in Congo has been driven for more than a decade by the violent struggle for control over the country's vast natural resources, including gold, diamonds and timber, most of which is exploited using hard manual labour.