iTSCi is delighted to announce the start of iTSCi in two important areas of North Kivu, DRC; both in Lubero north of the Provincial capital of Goma, and in the most historically infamous ‘conflict minerals’ area of Walikale territory, west of Goma where the Bisie site is located. For several years prior to 2009, Bisie reportedly produced around three quarters of the cassiterite from the entire central African region and was alleged to be controlled by various military groups including brigades of the Congolese army. Soldiers were reported to be both present in the mine as well as collecting payments from miners and traders at roadblocks along the transport routes. This situation was the main driver of the ‘conflict minerals’ campaigns of NGO’s and their support for the Dodd Frank Act, as well as the cause of key buyers leaving the area, and the start of a de-facto embargo on the province from 2011.
Four years on, much has changed, and, following the official validation of areas worked by artisanal miners across Walikale as ‘green’, those mines will now be integrated into the iTSCi Programme to enable conflict-free minerals to be exported to responsible buyers in the international market. It is not known how many artisanal mines and miners could re-start working across Walikale, and it will certainly take time for mines to be cleared after a long period of low activity under the de-facto embargo, yet the start of iTSCi demonstrates that this area can move on from its iconic conflict related reputation to a more stable future of new opportunities. Trade and economic development is viewed by many as the route to further stability and an enabler of peace. Reaching this turning point is a fantastic achievement, not only for the iTSCi Programme and its field implementing partner Pact, but all others involved in supporting us over the years, including the Government of the DRC and local companies. Bisie itself is not included in this extension of iTSCi since an industrial mine is being developed on that site with significant large scale production expected to begin in 2018, representing a new kind of economic opportunity for the area.