Kinshasa (AFP) - Greenpeace on Tuesday called on the United States, Europe and China to launch probes into companies selling lumber from the Democratic Republic of Congo where illegal logging is damaging the country's forests.
"Authorities must use every route open to them, including human rights and labour laws as well as conventions... to stop illegal and destructive trade," the environmental group said in a new report on the timber trade in the resource-rich country.
The report is the result of a two-year Greenpeace investigation into the logging concessions operated by Lebanese-owned firm Cotrefor as well as the ports around the world where the wood is exported and sold.
Greenpeace concludes the company's practices -- which allegedly include mistreating employees, the non-payment of taxes and exceeding quotas for felling endangered trees -- are putting at risk Bonobo chimpanzees and a precious variety of wood called afrormosia.
"Its (Cotrefor's) legacy and that of companies like it is a logged-out forest and deprived communities," said Greenpeace Africa's DR Congo coordinator Raoul Monsembula in a statement.
The group also blamed the African nation's government, noting Cotrefor's "operations are symptomatic of the organised chaos that is the DRC logging sector where weak governance and corruption undermine forest protection."
Congolese Environment Minister Liyota Ndjoli denied Greenpeace's claims.
"The fact is... that the DRC is a country of largely underexploited forests and the timber industry has a very small negative impact," he said in a statement.
The forests of the Congo Basin are the second largest rainforest area in the world after the Amazon. Yet a report from British think tank Chatham House estimated in 2014 that nearly 90 percent of the country's logging was illegal.