PACT reply to the open letter on ‘conflict minerals’

In the following op-ed, the NGO PACT that is involved in implementing the iTSCi traceability scheme in eastern DRC and neighbouring countries respond to the open letter on ‘conflict minerals’ published in September 2014.

The following text represents the authors’ opinions only and may or may not reflect this website’s editorial line.

 

A conflict-free model that works in eastern DRC

 

Before Pact and its partners put in place a due-diligence mineral traceability system at a mine in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Labiteziza Seyinda despaired not only over prices for the tin ore that he dug but also for his life.

“For us, it means more transparency and less fraud,” he says in French. “Not to mention, an end to harassment.”

Today, Labiteziza and more than 72,000 artisanal, small-scale miners in the Congo countryside and Africa’s mineral-rich Great Lakes Region are back at work; can access a legal market for the tin, tantalum and tungsten that go into our smartphones, tablets and other gadgets; and enjoy a growing freedom from fear and violence.

Yet, with an estimated 2 million more like Labiteziza who depend on mining to make a living in DRC, not nearly enough has been done.

That last point seems to be at the crux of an opinion piece “In Eastern Congo, Economic Colonialism in the Guise of Ethical Consumption?” in the Washington Post on Sept. 10. And on that, Pact agrees.

The sole international NGO implementing minerals traceability systems in DRC, Pact has been working in east Congo’s muddy trenches to help build local solutions that are the cornerstone of functioning markets, decent livelihoods and human rights.

In the four years since we set up the program – known as iTSCi, the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative – a quarter of a million miners and their families have benefitted from better market prices and safer mines. Twelve thousand tonnes of the 3Ts (tin, tantalum and tungsten) from government-approved mines move along the certified supply chain annually, closely watched all the way by the region’s national governments and independent monitors. More than 24,000 transactions per week are recorded by government officials. At the end of the pipeline, the minerals are purchased by multinationals complying with “conflict-free” regulations.

And … closer to home, most of us now enjoy the peace of mind that our devices support apps, not atrocities.

But no matter the achievements, further progress can only result from exponentially reproducing conflict-free supply chains like those that have been implemented at more than 700 mines throughout the region.

From Pact’s perspective, what’s different today about the conflict-free mining debate is that it’s no longer the abstract conversation it was a couple of years ago:

There is a working model on the ground.

It’s implemented by government, largely self-funded and monitored by civil society and auditors.

As a result, production is up, mineral prices reflect true market conditions, and peace and stability within local communities is growing from stronger reinforcement of security and human rights in the mines.

And, not to forget, 72,000 miners are back at work, treasuring newfound promise that tomorrow can be better than today, thanks to traceability, safer conditions, and engaged markets.

It’s time to ask what to do next.

The answer is scaling up conflict-free mining and certification activities to include more subsistence diggers like Labiteziza, who today plies his trade unimpeded by armed interference and lives a life measurably transformed.

When you have a model that works, you build on it.

Mark Viso

CEO and President, Pact

Washington, D.C.

Pact is an international development organization based in Washington, D.C., at work in 26 countries. Pact works in partnership with government, industry and communities to implement the due-diligence and mineral traceability system.

 

 

 

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