On November 16, 2016, AVX Corporation, a leading manufacturer and supplier of passive components and interconnect solutions, and the world’s foremost supplier of tantalum capacitors, announced a Solutions for Hope (SfH) pilot designed to test new options for responsibly sourcing tin, tantalum, and tungsten (the 3Ts) from Rwanda. Designated the SfH Due Diligence Options Pilot, the initiative is evaluating two new due diligence options: a new, cloud-based due diligence process developed by the Better Sourcing Program (BSP) employed in combination with AVX’s innovative Geological Passporting chain of custody system. The BSP tool utilizes a proprietary phone app to enable real-time electronic monitoring, chain of custody tracking, and issues reporting, providing much faster access to data than existing systems, and AVX’s Geological Passporting system determines the mineralogical, geochemical, and geochronological characteristics of ore at each mine, which is expected to help validate origins, reduce smuggling, and reduce the cost of due diligence processes.
The pilot defines a set of key suppliers — including a number of BSP-supported mines, exporter Rwanda Pure Water, and processor Global Advanced Metals — to create a closed-pipe supply line for testing the two new due diligence options, and has engaged stakeholders from civil society, government, and industry to promote transparency and knowledge sharing throughout the evaluation process.
The first shipment to have utilized the SfH Due Diligence Options Pilot was received by Global Advanced Metals this August, and was among the tantalum receipts evaluated in the smelter’s most recent independent third-party audit. The audit was conducted by the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP), and found the smelter in compliance with all CFSP protocols, marking a crucial first milestone in testing the readiness of these systems for commercial use.
“In conjunction with companies’ own due diligence efforts, an alternative assurance system in Rwanda should help make supply chains more transparent and encourage timely incident reporting and follow-up,” said Sophia Pickles, senior campaigner, Global Witness. “Properly implemented, these systems can help drive improvement and increase opportunities for mining communities, while contributing to robust due diligence for upstream and downstream companies.”
“The Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) is supportive of the development and enhancement of upstream tools, systems, and resources that help supply chain actors access responsibly produced minerals and contribute toward the continual improvement of both their supply chains and the systems they use, which is in line with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Sourcing from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas,” said Leah Butler, CFSI program director.
“The goal of this pilot is to seek systems scalable to risk, with cost structures that avoid placing undue burden on upstream partners,” said Willing King, senior vice president AVX. “The end goal is to do this while meeting internationally accepted guidance and standards for due diligence, and keeping data management and reporting capabilities in line with current technology, as well as with the expectations of businesses, governments, and civil society.”
“Better Sourcing is proud to be working side-by-side with Solutions for Hope to deliver the first conflict-free export from Rwanda with real-time reporting of incidents using our unique cloud-based software,” said Benjamin Clair, Managing Director of BSP. “Our partnership with SfH, the Rwandan government, and local businesses seeks to provide real world benefits to local, small-scale miners.”
Legislation requires U.S. companies to disclose the use of certain minerals, including tantalum, in their products, as well as to describe the process they used to ensure that their purchase of such minerals did not fund the illegally armed groups operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries, as they present a serious threat to the livelihoods of thousands of artisanal miners in the DRC and Rwanda and the economic stability of the entire region. Efforts like those being tested in the SfH Due Diligence Options Pilot, as well as in other initiatives supported by Solutions for Hope, AVX, the Better Sourcing Program, the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, and similar organizations actively work to provide effective solutions for combating these issues through legislative compliance.
Solutions for Hope will work with stakeholders to evaluate the Due Diligence Options Pilot, gain valuable takeaways, and ultimately improve and expand upon the program.