What was the Conflict Free Tin Initiative (CFTI)?

The CFTI was a multi-stakeholder project that ran from 2012 to June 2014, which focused on realistic and sustainable solutions to the issues of “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries. The CFTI aimed to show that companies can source conflict free minerals from the DRC in accordance with legislation (such as the US Dodd Frank Act, Section 1502) and international guidelines (OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chain of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas).

In 2012, a de-facto embargo persisted across the DRC provinces of South and North Kivu, as well as many areas of Maniema. Without upstream due diligence and traceability programs in place, downstream companies were unwilling to take on the due diligence and other risks associated with sourcing from the region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (MFA) took action to encourage international sourcing of conflict-free minerals from high-risk areas by financing the re-launch of the iTSCi due diligence and traceability programme in the Kivu Provinces, specifically the Kalimbi mine in Nyabibwe area of South Kivu.

Partners throughout the tin supply chain played their role making this possible. A group of experts validated a tin ore mine in the conflict prone area of South Kivu as conflict free. The Netherlands government financed Pact, an international development NGO, to implement the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi) which is a comprehensive due diligence and traceability system. The Netherlands was the neutral broker, bringing industry partners together throughout the supply chain, from the mine, to exporters, international trader, Malaysian smelter, soldering paste manufacturers and end-users in the steel and electronics industry.

Traceability

The CFTI proved that due diligence and traceability were possible, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Incidents were to be expected, especially given the challenges in the DRC. These were taken seriously, investigated and mitigated through a transparent system that involved communities, supply chain participants, and the government. The fact that incidents did not become trends means that the system not only worked, but was proven to be robust.

Social Impact

The social impact was positive because this initiative restarted the local economy and generated an income for hundreds of miners who had been unemployed during the de facto embargo on the ‘3Ts’ (tin, tantalum and tungsten) from the DRC. The CFTI represented an important milestone towards conflict-free mineral trading in the DRC, proving that due diligence and traceability is possible, even in the most challenging circumstances. Traceability was an essential contributor to formalization of mining, and it became a springboard to enable miners to work in improved work conditions. The evolution of these benefits will take time.

After Pilot Completion

The CFTI concluded in 2014, after demonstrating that it is possible to provide a reliable, traceable supply of conflict-free minerals to the international market from some of the most volatile and complex places in the world.

While the pilot has reached its official conclusion, conflict-free tin sourcing from the region continues. In July 2015, iTSCi and Pact announced a three-year project with the MFA to achieve “Scaling up Mineral Trade” in the Great Lakes Region of central Africa. The project will enable iTSCi to increase the inclusion of 3Ts mines by around 25%, the number of trained government representatives by roughly 33%, improve data collection and strengthen capacity of local stakeholders to monitor the integrity of the system. Importantly, the project also aims to maximize the benefits available to local participants from the exploitation of mineral resources through training in literacy, savings and business management, as well as raising awareness of safety issues and supporting women’s representation and opportunities in the sector. For more information, visit iTSCi’s website.

At a time when many companies have shied away from purchasing minerals from the DRC, CFTI provides a way to source responsibly from the region. According to Sasha Lezhnev of NGO the Enough Project, “Consumers across North America and Europe are demanding electronics and other products that contain conflict-free minerals from Congo, and this joint initiative is showing leadership by sourcing minerals from a conflict-free mine in eastern Congo. Minerals must be transparently traded, so that exports fully match production capacity, and consumers can be confident they are buying conflict-free products that help communities in Congo.”

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