ASM Responsible Mineral Supply Chains in Africa: Case of Conflict Minerals

ASM Responsible Mineral Supply Chains in Africa: Case of Conflict Minerals

The issue of responsible mineral supply chains has taken centre stage in the African mining
sector in the last few decades as a response to the challenge of conflict minerals. ASM is often
fraught with controversy and this is especially the case with conflict minerals. Conflict minerals have attracted world attention in view of concerns over abuse of revenues that come from high value minerals that are extracted in conflict zones of the world. It has been documented that mineral trade, taxation and transportation from certain regions provide an income to groups that violate environmental and human rights and perpetrate corruption.

The breadth of ASM expands from panning for gold in a river to underground activities. Despite the activity’s lack of efficiency, it is estimated that 15 to 20 per cent of global minerals and metals are derived from artisanal mining and as much as 80% of sapphires in the world are mined artisanal. With the rise in consumerism, an increase in demand for raw materials was recorded in recent years. The focus on supply chains started from higher demands in luxury goods such as jewellery, which called for full disclosure regarding the mine-to-consumer process.

A lack of transparency in supply chains can tarnish brand image for companies relying on gold or precious stones. From an African perspective, it is important to determine this impact and also begin to chart a way forward given the ideals of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV).

International response to conflict minerals

The ASM sector on the continent generally takes to formal, illegal and informal mining, with the latter dominating the industry. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has vast amounts of mineral wealth, and yet it has one of the lowest GDPs in the world. In the eastern regions of the country, conflict is fuelled by profit from the mineral trade by directly exploiting artisanal mines or levying illegal taxes. It is estimated that more than half the artisanal miners in the eastern DRC work in mines in conflict areas. The minerals at the source of conflict have included: Tantalum commonly known as Coltan, Tin, Tungsten and Gold. Many international human rights organisations working with local NGOs have taken a stance against abuses related to natural resource exploitation. This has resulted in a lot of initiatives to address issues of armed conflict related to natural resource exploitation.

Diamond ASM supply chain

Diamonds are not listed amongst conflict minerals but influenced civil wars, displaced people, and funded armed conflicts in Africa for many years. One of the oldest initiatives, the Kimberly process is a United State (US)-based joint government, industry and civil society initiative and it was geared towards blocking the trade of conflict diamonds. Many of the diamond-related initiatives are directly
linked with the US, the largest market for the precious stone, followed by the Gulf countries and China.
Compared to the 3Ts, traceability of diamonds is easier. The Responsible Jewellery Council, which consists of a jewellery industry association certifies members for ethical practices in gold and diamond
supply chains. The precious stones due to their pivotal role in wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, are referred to as “blood diamonds” or “Rebel’s best friends”. The Diamond Development Initiative (DDI)
on the other hand focuses on supporting long term community development for diamond ASM by encouraging formalisation and economic integration. The DDI works within the Kimberley Process and in parallel with its certification process.

ASM specific supply chain initiatives

Industrial mining that wavered due to instability opened opportunities for ASM and conflict minerals
to flourish with little control. The informal nature of ASM made miners and communities close to ASM
sites more vulnerable to armed groups. Some international initiatives have been established to focus
on ASM such as the OECD Guidance on the Artisanal Mining sector, which aims to reduce marginalization for ASM and transparent supply chains. The ICGLR Certification Mechanism on the other hand focuses on ASM formalization and traceability of minerals to stop rebel financing. On the other hand, the BGR Mineral Certification with projects on the 3Ts running in the Great Lakes Region focuses on due diligence, ASM conflicts risks and ASM formalization.Like previously cited initiatives, the BGR Mineral Certification was crafted following the impact of the US Dodd-Frank Act.

There remains evidence of research gaps and despite all the initiatives, major problems do remain.
These include ongoing security threats in communities near mines, especially gold mines; failures in
traceability systems; limited access to formal markets or alternative livelihoods by artisanal miners; an
insufficient number of legal artisanal mining zones; and continued minerals smuggling. Broadly, these centre on limited definitions, weak monitoring, dearth of transparency, lack of institutional secretariats, audit independence and voluntary participation.

An important aspect is alignment with home-grown solutions that support the growth of the minerals sector on the continent, such as the African Minerals Governance Framework (AMGF), the AMV Private
Sector Compact and the frameworks coming out of the regional economic communities (RECs) and intergovernmental organisations. Further work should place African policy into proactive mode vis-a-vis emerging mineral demands such as cobalt and lithium demand for green growth pathways exemplified by those in the motor vehicle industry.