Last month, ITSCI celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Burundi, with the first ITSCI tagging taking place in Kayanza province on 12th May 2014.

First bag tagged under the ITSCI Programme, May 2014

The 3T mineral sector in Burundi, being a Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Area, has faced many challenges but the government and mining companies have joined efforts to establish responsible supply of 3T minerals. The Burundian government is the only government in the region to have financially supported the start of the programme, and so in 2014, ITSCI started working with the Burundian Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) to launch the Programme in-country.

By establishing traceability and due diligence procedures, ITSCI supported responsible sourcing practices in cooperation with the Burundian government. Over the last ten years, 85,058 bags were traced and tagged under the ITSCI Programme in Burundi, including 77,041 at mine level and 8,017 at processor level.

As we celebrate this milestone, it is important to recognise the collective efforts of all stakeholders – from miners and local communities to companies, government officials and international partners. The success of the ITSCI programme in Burundi highlights effective multi-stakeholder collaboration and the positive impact of responsible mining practices.

Jean-Baptiste Sabukwigura, Burundi Director of the NGO Kumbuka Afrika, ITSCI field implementation partner, said:

“I’ve been with ITSCI in Burundi since 2014 and I can see the direct impact of the Programme on the communities. As a geologist, I have worked on other projects, but the ITSCI programme was different! Not only did it have a positive impact on the government, the supply chain, and the miners, but it also has an impact on the local communities. Seeing a miner build his own house thanks to income generated from mining activities is special and shows one of the many positive impacts of the Programme!
The Programme has also helped me personally, I’ve met different communities and cultures and on a professional level I’m able to do training for my development every year.”

ITSCI field implementation partner Kumbuka Afrika and exporters met to celebrate ITSCI’s 10 years in Burundi, May 2024

From political upheaval to nationwide collaboration

By 2015, after a year of the Programme’s implementation, 34 mines and all 3T exporters authorised to operate in the country were ITSCI members. However, the political crisis that unfolded in April 2015 led to companies suspending operations in Burundi and over 30% of mines became inactive.

Thanks to funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DMFA), activities were able to continue.
“Without the additional support from DMFA, we would have had to close the office. Production was so low that it couldn’t finance the project and we had to let most of our staff go”, recalled Jean-Baptiste.

During that year, ITSCI made significant efforts to maintain the programme and continued to train state agents, organised about 100 visits to mine sites and exporters to closely check the security situation, discussed the situation with government entities and continued to manage traceability and collect data, in cooperation with state services. In 2016, investors started to come back to Burundi.

As the programme evolved, ITSCI promoted the need for continuous improvement and adaptation to emerging challenges. In July 2019, the Burundian government stressed the importance of the mining sector, which contributes more to the national economy than traditional exports such as coffee and tea.

Family homes in Kidunduri village

By 2019, ITSCI covered 155 sites in 21 communes in Burundi while supporting mining cooperatives to formalise activities and assisting them in their due diligence. According to local mining cooperatives, communities in Burundi benefited from the results of monitoring and capacity building with ITSCI. For instance, about 420 residents of the village of Kidunduri worked at ITSCI monitored mine sites and, in 2018, the mining cooperatives built three new classrooms with the benefits made from mining activities. One student said, “I’m not late for class anymore because this school is close to my family’s house.”


Launch of electronic data collection

One of the most notable advancements in recent years was the launch of electronic data collection in late 2021.
In 2019, ITSCI began collaborating with the Burundian government to develop operational procedures which were later agreed and signed by ITSCI and the Office Burundais des Mines et Carrières (Burundian Office of Mines, OBM). Despite setbacks in 2020 related to the COVID-19 pandemic, ITSCI continued working diligently to develop a mobile app, and to refine and test the technical, procedural, and logistical aspects of electronic data collection, with inputs from OBM, until its country-wide launch.

The introduction of the ITSCI mobile application transformed data collection in the field. The user-friendly application captures production, processing, and exports data and related information. Mineral receipts are printed immediately at sites, and the data is transmitted in real time. This innovative tool streamlined the data collection process, reducing paperwork and enhancing accuracy while improving transparency in the 3T supply chain.

In 2022, ITSCI carried out ten training sessions for over 700 participants, focusing on traceability and due diligence requirements in line with the recommendations of the OECD Guidance, including one-on-one coaching sessions for OBM agents. These training sessions aimed to strengthen the knowledge of OBM agents on electronic data collection and data synchronisation to reduce incidents related to the chain of custody.

Mr. Ndihokubwayo Christophe, OBM agent assigned at mine level, Northern Burundi, said:
“We appreciate the application because it made data recording faster than before. There is no need to write the traceability data. We only need to scan the tags. This improves efficiency at mine level to a great extent.”

Representatives of OBM and ITSCI met to formalise the electronic data collection programme, Bujumbura November 2019

Story from the field – How responsible mining practices empowered local miner Innocent

The impact of the ITSCI Programme is perhaps best illustrated by the stories of the miners and communities it has touched. From offering new opportunities to fostering a sense of security and stability, the programme’s efforts have supported economic improvements for communities in Burundi.

Innocent Nsengiyumva has been working in ITSCI monitored mines in Burundi since 2014.

Innocent (middle) with other miners

Before the Programme was implemented in Burundi, Innocent worked in mines where the lack of monitoring and the country’s embargo on minerals created several risks including fraud.
“When I first heard about ITSCI, I immediately found it interesting and not long after I started working in mines that participated in the programme, I could see the benefits not only for me but also for communities around the mines” Innocent recalls.

To him, the Programme brought change not only for miners but also for the local community which saw benefits beyond the mines with the community investing in building schools, water supplies, the marking out of roads, and the construction of houses.

Ten years later, Innocent lives in the capital of Bujumbura. With the regular income from the mines, Innocent moved from the small village of Gatare:
“I left the countryside with the money I received from the mines, built a house in the capital, and today, my children go to high-quality schools.”

Today, Innocent still works in ITSCI monitored mines where he says that he meets miner friends and looks after cows and field of crops that he bought thanks to revenues from his mining activities. For him, the ITSCI programme made all the difference. Innocent’s story shows how responsible mining practices can uplift entire communities.

Looking ahead

From around 2,400 mine workers in 43 mine sites in 2014 to nearly 4,000 working in over 200 monitored mines today, we are proud of the positive developments of the Programme in Burundi. We remain committed to support the government, companies, and miners in promoting responsible sourcing, and will continue to foster engagement and collaboration while supporting stakeholders with risk mitigation.