TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Tracing mining products from the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has become “situation critical” as the April 1 deadline approaches for a US law banning the trade of conflict minerals, the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) said on Tuesday.
The official ban on mining, which President Joseph Kabila put in place in September in the troubled region, still exists.
The IRTI said it cannot continue to develop a tracing system for metals in the Eastern DRC while mining is banned, and has had to suspend all its staff on the project.
“The pilot project for the tagging/chain of custody system was just beginning to operate smoothly when the mining suspension was implemented and all work had to stop,” sustainability and regulatory affairs manager Kay Nimmo told Mining Weekly Online.
“We were already working to tight timescales with no untraceable material being acceptable to the markets after April 1 – any delay makes this worse and the four to five month delay up until now has made the whole situation critical. “
Last week, the ITRI put out a plea for funding for the programme, saying it needed $6,5-million to complete the tracing programme by the April deadline.
“If sufficient funding is not found almost immediately the project cannot proceed,” Nimmo said, speaking from Indonesia.
The DRC is the biggest producer of tin and tantalum in Africa, and much of this production comes from the conflict-ridden eastern part of the country, where reports have said warlords have used profits from illicit mining to finance their activities.
The Dodd-Frank Act, passed in July last year, requires US companies to under the jurisdiction of the Securities Exchange Commission to report whether they use minerals from the DRC or its neighbours, and prove they do not come from conflict areas.
Tin is used in electronics, tantalum is used in capacitors, and tungsten is used to make cell phones vibrate.
Nimmo said that “no-one knows” when the mining ban will be lifted. The DRC mining ministry did not immediately return calls from Mining Weekly Online.
She said that the impact from the halt could already be seen in the community on a visit two weeks after it was put in place.
“We do not have specific details of the situation now, but considering that the people of North Kivu were depending for 80% of their income on the mining sector such a long suspension is obviously a serious concern,” said Nimmo.
Minister of Mines Martin Kabwelulu had previously been quoted as saying that the ban would be lifted by October 20.
The price of tin has climbed from $18 00/t to $27 000/t on the London Metals Exchange over the past 12 months.