Official export data shows a slump in sales of cassiterite and coltan from DR Congo from the final quarter of 2009, according to the Africa Intelligence website. The fall reflects the ever-increasing pressure on buyers regarding transparency and good governance. Local sources claim the very survival of the industry is at stake.

Exports of cassiterite and coltan plunged spectacularly in 2009 and the decline has continued this year. According to the DRC mines ministry, overseas sales of cassiterite fell to 15,512 tonnes (gross weight) last year, a drop of 19%, while the value fell by over 40% to US$ 113.4 million, as opposed to US$ 190.9 million in 2008.

In the last quarter of 2009, cassiterite exports amounted to 1,993 tons worth US$ 27.6 million, the equivalent of an annual drop of 23% in volume and 2.7% in value. Over the same period, exports of coltan fell to 463 tonnes (worth US$ 7.3 million) in 2009. That was down 13% in volume and 22% in value. The downward trend for coltan accelerated in the first quarter of 2010 with a collapse in exports, to only 6.75 t (worth US% 101,250), a stunning 99% fall in volume and value. First quarter exports of cassiterite were not reported.

In the long run any improvement in markets for cassiterite and coltan will depend on the capacity of operators to comply with “good governance” requirements of buyers who are under pressure from governments, especially in the USA. ITRI’s iTSCi traceability scheme is one of a number of initiatives addressing this issue.