The iTSCI supply chain traceability scheme has been operating in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga province for some time now, with plans for a further roll-out and pilot studies underway in other DRC provinces and neighbouring countries.

In Rwanda some 25,000 workers at over 400 sites are now covered by the scheme, while in Katanga 123 sites in seven target areas with at least 12,000 miners are involved.

While control of “conflict minerals” is the main objective of the scheme, there are some useful by-products of the work, as described in a recent report on the last six months of activity in Katanga by ITRI’s partner organisation on the ground, Pact.

“Despite the challenges in most of the target areas tagged sacks of minerals are now a common site in Katanga: in mines, on roads, and in depots. Feedback from stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive and a few highlights are listed below.

At the junction between Malemba-Mitwba-Manono, the iTSCi team met a négociant (local trader) who said that she considered that the tagging scheme was great for her because it reduces the amount of fraud and theft. Previously she would send minerals to Manono and there would often be some missing at the other end. Now she can send the sacks with peace of mind.

On the road to Manono a convoy of bicycle transporters said that they are very happy with the tagging scheme because before, when they were transporting minerals, they would get stopped by people who demanded a ‘kopo’ (tomato puree tin – around 300g) of cassiterite as a payment. Then the transporters would get blamed for stealing and might have to pay the difference. Now, because the bags are sealed, no one can steal from them en route so this makes life easier for them.

Most diggers, négociants and transporters think it is a system to manage fraud and theft. Explaining the ‘conflict minerals’ concept in Katanga is challenging as most people figure that what happens in the Kivus has no relation to what happens in Katanga.

One of the most striking benefits is for the government agency monitoring artisanal mining, SAESSCAM. The Head of SAESSCAM Manono said: “Before iTSCi was set up, SAESSCAM was totally impotent. We had no way to control the diggers and no idea of the actual production of the mines. I myself had to set up observation posts in the middle of the night to try to track the minerals being smuggled out of the mines. Now, the diggers come to SAESSCAM every day and declare all their production so they can get their tags. We can census the diggers, we can monitor production, and we can collect the legal tax. iTSCi has transformed SAESSCAM.”