Reported exports of cassiterite (tin concentrate) from the Democratic Republic of Congo have been below year-ago levels up to May this year and could now be further disrupted by a cessation of purchases by the Belgian trader Traxys SA and an increase in export taxes by North Kivu province. Latest news agency reports based on interviews with traders and government officials indicate that shipments from South Kivu province have increased after a very slow start to the year, while North Kivu shipments have been 27% down year-on-year in January-May. North Kivu accounts for 70 – 75% of total shipments from the two provinces.
Shipments from South Kivu were very low in January-February, as several exporters stopped shipping ore in response to criticisms from a UN panel of experts and NGOs of their alleged links with the FDLR rebel group. However after the intervention of the regional mines ministry, business returned to normal.
“We got towards the end of February and there still wasn’t any exporting. For more than a month and a half, they weren’t exporting,” Colette Wamikila, South Kivu’s mines minister told Reuters “(Traders) were afraid to continue their activities. But after we got involved, now everyone is back to work. There is a noticeable increase," she said. Trade data quoted by Reuters shows that exports from South Kivu rose from only 105 tonnes in January to 450 – 460 tpm in March/April, although this was still below last year’s monthly average of some 490 tpm.
Meanwhile Bloomberg reported that an increase in sales from North Kivu in response to higher prices was threatened by a rise in mining tax imposed by the regional government from 25 May. “The market is restarting,” said Emmanuel Ndimubanzi, head of the national mines ministry in the North Kivu province. “But the province risks negating better prices. This needs to be changed quickly.” The latest increase brings total export taxes to 5 percent in North Kivu. Reported shipments from the province in January-May fell by 27% to 4,187 tonnes, although total actual volumes are understated due to illegal exports.
Traxys’s withdrawal from business with exporters in both provinces began on 1 June, in response to lack of progress with UN officials in establishing “specific solutions, remedies, and/or preventative steps that would allow it to continue its legitimate and law abiding commercial transactions in the Congo without the implication of wrongdoing”.
ITRI estimates that DR Congo accounts for 5 – 6% of world mine production of tin.