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FEATURE STORY

Mobility and Transparent Artisanal Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

August 13, 2015


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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Motorbikes have become essential in ensuring access to remote artisanal and small-scale mining sites of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • The World Bank, along with the DRC government, private funders, other development partners and industry players has been working to provide equipment including motorbikes, GPS and computers to miners in an effort to make their lives easier.
  • Combined with a system called iTSCi that traces minerals to ensure they are not from conflict hit areas, the initiative is helping secure livelihoods for thousands and local businesses meet international standards.

If you are an artisanal miner in remote corners of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that are tough to access by paved roads, a motorbike is probably what you use to reach your destination.

In the Maniema province of DRC, for instance, these motorbikes help miners reach remote locations and ensure their livelihoods. Artisanal miners here work to supply raw material to roughly 280 companies including Apple, BlackBerry, Boeing, and Motorola.

In 2014, the World Bank worked with the Congolese government through the PROMINES project to supply motorbikes and other essential monitoring equipment such as GPS instruments and computers to help these miners. The supply of motorbikes and other equipment have enabled regular visits even to the most remote, muddy sites – which are extremely difficult to locate and reach – to conduct baseline and incident reporting, collect data sheets, and observe the implementation the traceability and due-diligence scheme. Motorbikes have become the motor for development, ensuring that these remote areas remain open for international business. The initiative also helps maximize the use of mining revenue for national development and to oversee and improve transparency in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) practices.

Such concerted efforts to ensure conflict-free mining are still relatively new. Just five years ago, it was almost impossible to observe traceability of artisanal mines in the country.  Artisanal miners did not know what happened to the raw minerals they sold, global manufacturers couldn’t trace the origin of the minerals received from third-parties, and consumers were unaware of whether their purchasing choices could have contributed to the country’s protracted civil conflict.

Enacted by the United States, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Protection Act of 2010 aims to ensure that minerals found in American goods are not associated with armed conflict. One industry-led system to ensure traceability and due diligence of minerals exported from the region is called iTSCi, which is in use in DRC, Rwanda and Burundi currently.

The World Bank, amongst other partners, has supported governments in the region to implement this system.  

Using motorbikes provided through the PROMINES project, miners are now able to reach new mines, such as Lubutu, Punia and Kasese – all of which lie far beyond the reach of reliable roads. While iTSCi is largely self-funded by a levy on volumes of minerals traded, up-front costs must be covered in order to bring the system to new mines. Without the help of Promines and the World Bank, such expansion would be slow in DRC, and effective monitoring, which is vital, would not be possible.

The system is now used at roughly 800 sites in the DRC that benefit 80,000 workers. It involves weighing, bagging, tagging, and tracing each bag along its path to market. Thanks to iTSCi, tens of thousands of artisanal miners are at work with access to legal markets for the minerals they produce. Mr. Labiteziza Seyinda, a tin miner in eastern DRC, says: “For us, it means more transparency and less fraud. Not to mention an end to harassment.”

The international tin industry reported that 99 percent of all tin coming from Central Africa was traced by iTSCi in the first half of 2014. Mr. Paul Mabolia Yenga, National Coordinator of the Promines project said that the system, “allows the government to cut the link between conflict and mineral resources, increase the revenue of the government, and secure livelihoods for thousands of Congolese citizens.”

Further success of the system depends on extraordinary effort and coordination among the industry, miners, government and non-governmental organization partners. Pact Inc., the development partner responsible for implementation of iTSCi in the Great Lakes region in Africa, has recently reflected on the successes and challenges of the multi-stakeholder approach towards implementing iTSCi. Pact’s Country Director, Yves Bawa, said “By working with industry, miners, government and NGO partners, we have secured the livelihoods of tens of thousands of miners working in hundreds of mines that are free of armed groups and human rights abuse. Hundreds of local businesses are meeting international standards of operation to become credible suppliers to international minerals markets.”

The World Bank, Pact, and the Government of the DRC are also working together to help develop a national framework for artisanal mining in DRC, to bolster the Congolese government agency that oversees the sector, and to create a national database of small-scale mining information.


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