Written by: Yves Bawa
After five years of hard work and patience, artisanal miners are on the job in Walikale – free from fear and violence, with access to legal markets for the tin, tantalum and tungsten that go into our smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Walikale, a territory in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is among Pact’s biggest achievements.
The conditions that exist there today are nothing like they were before Pact and the iTSCi project, the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative, which is the region’s only due diligence and mineral traceability system in place for conflict-free mining.
In the past, many of the mines in Walikale were controlled by military groups, including brigades of the Congolese army. Soldiers were said to be standing watch at mine sites and collecting payments from miners and traders at roadblocks along transport routes. The situation was one of the main drivers behind conflict-free mineral campaigns in the early 2000s.
Because of its importance in the region, Walikale was selected to be among the first iTSCi pilots in June 2010, when Pact and its partners began implementing the due-diligence and mineral traceability system at mines in the DRC and neighboring countries. Pact is the only international NGO in the region doing such work.
Unfortunately, the suspension of all artisanal mining in the region by the DRC government and security conditions at the time did not allow for the system to be put into place. Undeterred, Pact worked with the government, local communities and stakeholders to develop the local economy and bring stability to the area. And now, the region has changed.
On April 7, 2015, after years of hard work, the tagging of 3T minerals – tin, tantalum and tungsten – began. The governor of North Kivu province, Julian Paluku, put the first tag on a 53kg bag of tin ore.
It marked a new chapter in North Kivu’s story, Governor Paluku said. After years of insecurity, he said, the time for socio-economic development finally has come.
To support the launch of the iTSCi project, the governor pledged $250,000 in provincial government funding for the rehabilitation of the road between Walikale and Goma, which will be used for the secure transport of minerals to processors and exporters.
Pact has helped establish conflict-free supply chains at nearly 1,300 mines in Africa’s Great Lakes region. It’s a huge achievement – but it isn’t enough.
We’ll continue to grow our conflict-free mining work in the region, because all mining families deserve a brighter future, just like those in Walikale.