Following the implementation of the first phase of a comprehensive due diligence plan for tin minerals exported from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July 2009, ITRI is extremely pleased to announce the immediate initiation of a Phase 2 pilot trial which will begin to track minerals and provide verifiable provenance information from individual mine sites in eastern DRC; something that has not been possible up to now.
The ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi) has been resourced to this point by ITRI and developed by a Working Group of ITRI, Malaysia Smelting Corporation Berhad (MSC), Thailand Smelting & Refining Co Ltd (Thaisarco-AMC) and Traxys Europe SA. Implementation of the Phase 2 pilot represents the first practical field trial designed to address concerns over ‘conflict minerals’ from that region and has required significant commitment and funding, around US$600k, to be put in place in order to go ahead.
The project has been made possible by the combination of support from a range of important sources, the tin trading and smelting sector, the tantalum industry, and downstream users of both tin and tantalum metal. In particular;
- An iTSCi project levy is being provided by ITRI smelter members, MSC and Thaisarco, on a monthly basis on behalf of their direct suppliers in the cassiterite supply chain, such as BEB Investment (Wicklow), Cronimet Central Africa, Huaying Trading, Jiata International, Metmar, RMMC*, SODEXMINES, Tengen Metals, Trademet, Traxys* , T.T.T. Mining and World Mining Company and a range of their suppliers further up the chain.
- Minerals Supply Africa, as original members of the iTSCi scheme, as well as the Comptoir Association of North Kivu, have also provided valuable assistance with the set up of the project.
- The Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center (T.I.C.) is making a one-time contribution to the costs of the pilot project to allow columbotantalite to be included in the pilot project, with potential additional funding from its members in the form of a buyer levy being planned.
- Downstream users of tin and tantalum in the electronics sector are making a substantial joint contribution of finance and/or products through EICC/GeSI (including companies such as Analog Devices, Apple, Cabot Supermetals, Dell, EMC Corporation, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola Foundation, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Philips, RIM, Sony, Talison, Telefonica S.A., Western Digital and Xerox) in order to allow the project to work in conjunction with and support their own activities in the extractives sector.
- Corus from the tinplate sector, and Traxys as a long term operator in the DRC, have also made contributions.
ITRI will be working with project partners within the DRC from technical consultancy organisation BEGEM, as well as with official services of the Ministry of Mines such as the Administration of Mines and SAESSCAM (the artisanal mining support and monitoring organisation). Pilot mine sites will be selected from relevant cassiterite and columbotantalite exploitation areas in North and South Kivu based upon advice from the Ministry of Mines and the system will be integrated with the Governments trading centre scheme once these ‘centres de negoce’ become operational later in 2010.
Kay Nimmo, Manager of Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs commented “We are delighted that we are now able to move ahead with this next step in the iTSCi project thanks to the support of so many different companies; it really demonstrates the commitment of the tin, and now also the tantalum sector, to find a solution to this difficult issue.”
If successful, and appropriate additional funding is secured, the pilot trial is expected to be expanded after the first 6 months of operation across 4 provinces of the DRC; North and South Kivu, Maniema and Katanga. A third phase is envisaged which will include development of a more detailed set of social and environmental performance standards and ratings later in 2010 or 2011.
Participation in the project is open to any non-ITRI smelter companies who are willing to follow the requirements and levy collection procedures of the due diligence scheme, however, all DRC cassiterite delivered to non-ITRI members unfortunately remains outside iTSCi at this time.
* Suppliers contributing to the levy but only providing mineral mined in Rwanda.