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Mineral Supply Chains Going Conflict Free

Friday March 4, 2016

Finally, some good news about tin, tungsten, and tantalum. These minerals often are considered conflict minerals because rebel groups and factions of the Congolese Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) benefit from illegally trafficking these materials. However, last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that conflict-free mineral exports are rising. In short, companies are buying fewer minerals connected to militia groups in the DRC.

The Enough Project, a human rights group, discovered that armed groups control less of the trade in tin, tungsten, and tantalum in the DRC than they did 5 or 10 years ago. “That means more of the metals—used in everything from wedding rings to soup cans to cell phones—can be considered conflict free,” Robbie Whelan writes. 

In its report, “Point of Origin: Status Report on the Impact of Dodd-Frank 1502 on Congo,” Enough credits the 2010 financial reform with improving supply chain transparency and decreasing association between minerals trade and violent conflict in the DRC. 

Multi-stakeholder teams, including miners, traders, human rights activists, civil society leaders, industry experts, and others, assessed conflict and child labor in 193 mines in eastern Congo, and 166 passed the reviews. Further, according to Enough, a record 948 tons of certified conflict-free tantalum was exported from eastern Congo in 2015. That’s 19 percent more than in 2014 and 387 percent more than in 2013.

“There’s a link between traceability and the well-being of communities―we’ll know how many minerals are going out, how much value, volume, and how much, theoretically, should trickle down to communities,” says Congolese activist Justine Masika Bihamba in a statement released by Enough.

Problems do remain, including ongoing security threats in communities near mines, especially gold mines; corruption in the traceability system; limited access to formal markets or alternative livelihoods by artisanal miners; an insufficient number of legal artisanal mining zones; and continued minerals smuggling, especially from eastern Congo into Rwanda.

In order for further improvements to be made, the report issued the following recommendations:
  • Combat smuggling.
  • Improve security.
  • Enforce sanctions and prosecute serious crimes.
  • Hold regional actors accountable.
  • Improve artisanal mining.
  • Require quality due diligence.
Moving forward

It’s not often that we think about how improving supply chains can actually improve lives. The Dodd-Frank Act has influenced business and society around the world, including increasing security for civilians in some mining areas in the DRC. Consider the description of regulatory compliance from the APICS Operations Management Body of Knowledge Framework: “All businesses must be aware of governmental regulations and required compliance … As trade opens across the world, more and more countries add regulations, making regulatory compliance of global companies even more complex.”

As successful and transparent supply chains grow in their importance to the overall business and society as a whole, knowledgeable professionals also become more valuable. Are you looking at the whole picture? APICS can help you gain supply chain understanding to drive your business and professional goals. Visit apics.org to see how APICS can help you. 
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  1. gatiproj March 17, 2016, 07:45 AM
    Thanks for Sharing Your information.this is very useful information

    [External link removed.]
  2. Natalie Shepherd May 02, 2016, 10:32 PM
    Great article Abe and great news that ethical trade is gaining ground in this area.