More than 170 registrants participated in a unique conflict mineral seminar held in association with the recent ITRI International Tin Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Record numbers of attendees were attracted to the main conference brought for the first time to the African continent, with the majority taking the opportunity to remain for the conflict mineral discussion in which they were joined by many more African representatives.
The event brought together local African and international industry, major tin buyers and downstream metal users, warehousing, infrastructure, and finance companies, with Government, UN experts, ICGLR, iTSCi and BGR project partners, as well as local NGO’s. During the course of the week several key decisions on practical steps towards progress were achieved;
• Senior representatives of the Government of Burundi held discussions with iTSCi and committed to facilitate the necessary actions to begin the project there as soon as possible.
• A representative from Uganda and iTSCi jointly committed to re-assess a possible way forward in that country.
• Discussions with the Provincial Minister of Maniema, DRC, iTSCi and downstream industry led to a commitment to a phased approach to expansion of the project in the generally conflict-free Maniema Province as soon as possible.
• Unfortunately metal buyers remain concerned over the current circumstances in the Kivu’s, DRC, but ITRI remains committed to follow-up discussions across the supply chain to enable the re-start of iTSCi in that area when there is a consensus to allow progress.
During the seminar, representatives of the South African Department of Trade and Industry and the UN Group of Experts explained their support for due diligence as a route to the return to more normal trade and to encourage further investment, as well as how purchasing from the region should be part of multinational companies’ responsible and sustainable material sourcing programmes. This aligned with a similar theme arising from the main tin conference sessions on supporting minerals trade from artisanal miners generally, in order to contribute to development of some of the poorest regions of the world.
Senior Government representatives from Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda presented their perspectives on challenges and progress to mineral traceability and due diligence in their regions, and were supported by Provincial Ministers of Maniema and North Kivu. Progress of the regional initiative of the ICGLR was also outlined. Challenges from the Government perspective focused on the need for increased technical capacity, training and additional time and resource, something which should be considered in the phase-in of the Dodd Frank rules. Difficulties in converting OECD guidance to practical action on the ground were also noted by ICGLR.
A second session was dedicated to understanding those practical actions which already help achieve the OECD requirements through presentations from iTSCi project staff, as well as SAESSCAM from Katanga, DRC. Many practical successes were described, including the positive co-operation of the FARDC, and examples of company disengagement and risk management in instances of security concern. On the other hand, pressure for expansion, even when limited resources are available, and the challenges of data collection, particularly in areas lacking infrastructure were also noted.
Industry leaders and NGO’s put forward pleas for minerals from the Kivus to be accepted again in the international market in a progressive phased programme to provide hope and incentive for improvement, restore some confidence and business to the area, and reduce smuggling and other less formal trade. Business leaders from Rwanda committed to the stakeholder committee process which has already been seen to work so well in Katanga.
The need for a good business climate and reduced uncertainty were often raised as the way forward to encourage investment. Steps will therefore be considered to involve and encourage major banks to fund investment in areas implementing due diligence, which the EICC will consider finding a way to support.
Increased supply chain linkages of exporters to specific mine sites would be achieved if that investment became available. That would result not only in increased production, but improved circumstances of mining on relevant sites, and a move towards longer term mine-exporter-user supply chains which would add confidence in the market.
A summary of suggested actions is as follows;
• Consider how end buyers can be engaged in responsible sourcing, and how funding may be leveraged from the downstream end of the supply chain.
• Encourage donor support to increased technical capacity, training and resourcing for Government field agents to assist the possibilities for converting OECD guidance to practical action on the ground.
• African Governments can consider regulation to better reflect practicalities on the ground, and commit to implementation of OECD nationally, as well as ensure faster incident investigations in Rwanda. ICGLR can contribute to the follow-up of cross border issues.
• iTSCi will develop systems for industrial processes, improve speed of data collection from the field, and feedback to companies
• Ways to improve the general business climate and encourage investment in order to increase formalised supply chains as well as increase production should be jointly considered.
• Finally, rapid release of the SEC rules is still required to increase certainty on expectations, while including a reasonable period of phase-in to allow due diligence systems to develop, and minimise liability and penalties that otherwise drive buyers away.
iTSCi is currently operating in around 500 areas, representing 1000’s of mine sites, in Rwanda and Katanga Province, DRC providing access to market at international prices for several thousand tonnes of mineral each year, the ~45,000 diggers producing it, as well as their dependents, typically considered to be 5 per digger.