Last November, Enough field researcher Timo Mueller and the two of us traveled in eastern Congo with the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, or PPA. Motorola Solutions, AVX, USAID, the US State Department, Global Advanced Metals, KPMG, Resolve, Phuzumoya Consulting, Geotraceability, the filmmaker Paul Freedman, IOM, MHI, and others. One of the highlights of the trip was traveling to a mine in Rubaya in Masisi, North Kivu. We helped analyze whether the mine could indeed be the next conflict-free mining project in eastern Congo, and then helped negotiate with the local government to move it forward.
Today, the main companies involved in the project — Motorola Solutions, AVX, and MHI — have made that a reality. They have again disproven the idea that companies cannot comply with the Dodd-Frank legislation while sourcing clean minerals from Congo. Announced below, with iTSCi as partners, the tantalum from the MHI mines in Rubaya will go through a 4-step transparent supply chain to be fed into electronic products.
1- MHI – Congolese mining company which will mine the tantalum, partially through an agreement with mining cooperative COOPERAMA
2- Global Advanced Metals and F&X – audited conflict-free smelters based in Australia, the US, and China which will turn the rock ore into powder for use in electronics
3- AVX – tech component company based in South Carolina who will make capacitors for electronics
4- Motorola Solutions – Chicago-based tech company who will make radios and other communications equipment. HP, Intel, Blackberry, Nokia, Fairphone, Motorola Mobility (Google), Flextronics, and Foxconn have also agreed to sign on to the project and will also use the minerals in their products.
As with any mining project in fragile eastern Congo, there are risks with the project. The point of setting up the conflict-free project is that there are now many more eyes and ears to monitor and report on those risks and deal with them transparently. No more turning a blind eye — we are all watching and will remain vigilant to stop conflict financing or corruption.
At the local level, there is a task force with Congolese civil society groups involved in monitoring conflict-free, child labor, and corruption issues. Earlier in 2013, a Congolese armed group called Nyatura had been taxing local "artisanal" miners at parts of the mines. But by the time we had visited, Nyatura had moved out of the area and was demobilizing many of its fighters to join the DDR transit camp in another area, which independent due diligence reports confirmed. That was one of the critical risks to overcome, as was an agreement with the local mining cooperative called COOPERAMA. That was secured just after our trip, and COOPERAMA will sell to MHI, since they are mining on MHI's concession.
Also, the local government had been on the fence about the project, as frequently happens in Congo. But the large, multi-stakeholder PPA group successfully convinced them that the local government would get significant tax revenues from the project, that more people would be employed, and that this would spur more investment in North Kivu. For now, they have approved it and are convinced.
There is also a risk that minerals from "red" mines (i.e. not conflict-free) in the area could infiltrate into the conflict-free or "green" mines. There are currently 17 mines in Masisi that are conflict-free, over 60% of Masisi's mines. 11 mines remain red or yellow in the area. The iTSCi/PACT bag and tagging, as well as due diligence by the companies in the project, are supposed to guard against the smuggling from the red to the green mines. But there might be incidents along the way, and they should be transparently addressed when they come up by the local task force, the companies involved, and international NGOs like Enough and others. It is critical that that task force, together with PACT, conduct their work thoroughly and transparently.
Overall, this is one more step in the right direction of conflict-free mining, and it should be followed up. As has occurred with other conflict-free projects in Congo, we look forward to see concrete benefits for miners and mining communities, as well as services provided by the Congolese government with their new revenues.
Enough will also be releasing a report on responsible investment guidelines in the Great Lake Region later this spring, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Read the full press release.