A conflict-free mining sector is not possible without a credible traceability and due diligence system operating in Africa’s Great Lakes region. This means that traceability must go beyond simply tracking bags of minerals through a supply chain. It must also ensure compliance with the OECD’s Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Supply Chains, which means decisively addressing issues of human rights violations, smuggling, fraud, among other priority issues. In the Netherlands, multinationals and the national government have partnered to contribute to breaking the cycle of war economies by starting a project for a conflict-free supply chain for tin from mine to end-users. Prior to this project, it was difficult to source conflict-free materials from the conflict prone areas of the Kivu provinces in the DRC.

This project started in a tin ore (cassiterite) mine in South Kivu and built on two supply chain systems: the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative “iTSCi” – an upstream traceability and due diligence mechanism – and the Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS) program.

The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the neutral broker that brought the partners along the supply chain together, from mine to smelter to end-user. The DRC government and local civil society are closely involved in the initiative which is structured within the framework of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and will be consistent with the due diligence guidance of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This project is hoped to contribute to the reform efforts of the Government of the DRC and its Mines Ministry. Its progress will depend on how the security situation in South Kivu develops.

The Conflict Free Tin Initiative consisted of the following parts. Part one included the identification of a conflict-free mine and tracking of the minerals from the mine to the smelter while managing any associated risks and incidents through the iTSCi Programme. Part two was linking with the Conflict-Free Smelter Program.

The intended outcome of the pilot was to give insight into how the system works and how it can be improved such that it is credible sustainable and expandable. An independent assessment of the program commissioned by the Public-Private Alliance for the Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA) found that CFTI was successful in demonstrating the viability and value of sourcing tin from the DRC. The program additionally enabled global-local engagement, allowing for interaction, information sharing, and problem solving between stakeholders at all points in the supply chain. This engagement encouraged greater cooperation from local government, and highlighted several broader challenges regarding ASM and governance that must primarily be addressed by government and others.

Part 1: Tracing minerals

The Government of the DRC, working with a range of partners, validates mines as conflict free. A joint validation mission provisionally concludes that a mine is conflict free. The partners in this part of the chain are the German Geological Service (BGR), MONUSCO area security, DRC government representatives, and members of civil society.

The traceability and due diligence mechanism in the CFTI pilot was a system developed by ITRI: the Tin Supply Chain initiative (iTSCi). The field operations were operated by Pact, an international NGO with extensive experience and credibility in the region, working with local partners. At the mine site and along the way to the point of export, every bag of tin ore received uniquely numbered tags, and the bag’s information was recorded in a log book. This data was transferred to the international database managed by ITRI. If there was an incident concerning a bag, the tags were indicated as invalid in the database and the tags could not be reused. The database also tracked the weight and quality of tin ore over time, and if significant changes are detected, then it will be investigated as an incident. As part of the on the ground assessment work of Pact (as specified by the OECD), all mines were rechecked for any conflict issues before tagging could commence, and any incidents of illegal or suspect activity were reported to the iTSCi Programme management and local stakeholders on a continual basis in order to bring about change. Synergy Global Consulting, as Independent Evaluators of the iTSCi Programme, also performed independent checks through field visits, company document verification, and company audits, and information is available on the iTSCi website.

Part 2: A Conflict Free Smelting Process

The Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS) Program is a voluntary program in which an independent third party evaluates smelters’ procurement activities and determines if they demonstrated that all the materials they processed originated from conflict-free sources worldwide. The program aims to enable companies purchasing from those smelters to source audited conflict-free minerals. While there are thousands of mines in the region, there are only a few smelters worldwide that process the minerals. CFS therefore played a crucial role in verifying conflict-free tin from the CFTI project. The Conflict Free Tin Initiative also partnered with Malaysian Smelting Corporation Berhad, which has been designated as “compliant” under the Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS) Program.

Part 3: Downstream Demand

The upstream tracking and due diligence activity on conflict-free tin can only create local opportunity if there are downstream buyers for this conflict free tin who are potentially willing to report to the US Security Exchange Commission (compliant with Dodd Frank Act 1502). Multinational companies that expressed interest in the CFTI supply included Royal Philips, Tata Steel, Nokia, Apple, Blackberry, FairPhone, Motorola Solutions, AIM Metals & Alloys, Alpha and MSC Berhad. Several multinationals involved in the pilot incorporated the tin in their production chain, and many more incorporated the tin into their products as part of their normal manufacturing process. See the results page on this website.

Related Frameworks

The Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA) is a joint initiative among governments, companies, and civil society to support supply chain solutions to conflict minerals challenges in the DRC and the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa. This alliance aims to promote initiatives like CFTI in the region. Leaders worldwide are calling for action to address conflict mineral concerns while delivering solutions that benefit those involved in responsible minerals trade in the Great Lakes Region. The PPA aims to demonstrate that it is possible to secure legitimate, conflict-free minerals from the Great Lakes Region.

Solutions for Hope is a multi-sector platform to support companies, civil society organizations, and governments working together to responsibly source minerals from regions experiencing conflict where market access is limited by opaque supply chains. Solutions for Hope pioneered the “closed pipe” approach later utilized by CFTI. In both the Solutions for Hope tantalum pilot and the CFTI pilot, this approach played an important role in signaling 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. The signal sent by these programs contributed to increased downstream demand, which in turn contributed to the scaling up of conflict-free production.