Mineral smuggling ‘still a major problem’
The high lucrative smuggling of minerals into Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border has significantly increased despite concerted efforts to curb the vice, says the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI).
In its latest report on the vice in Rwanda, it states that more than 11 tonnes of untagged minerals were seized by the Rwanda National Police in the Western Province districts of Rubavu, Rusizi and Karongi, all of which are suspected to have been smuggled from the Congolese side of the border.
ITRI is the body overseeing the mineral traceability and tagging scheme known as (iTSCi) in the region.
All these minerals that were intercepted have since been returned to the DRC authorities.
Over that same period, which is early this year, a mining company in DRC known as Minserve Ltd, attempted to ship five drums containing 780kgs of untagged Coltan from a mine in Katanga region, DRC, through Rwanda.
The consignment was intercepted by the Rwandan government and sent back.
According to ITRI, the government in Kinshasa has “almost failed” to implement the (iTSCi ) tagging system to the same levels applied in Rwanda, a situation that has forced many miners in DRC to take chances and smuggle minerals into Rwanda, so that it can be tagged and therefore qualified to be sold on the international market.
The tagging regulations were endorsed by US President Barack Obama in July 20101, requiring international companies to verify the origin of the minerals they deal in to avoid the proliferation of ‘conflict minerals.’
“There is almost no tagging of minerals taking place in DRC, despite the fact that the country has many players and large mine concessions.
Although the country’s embargo against trading minerals was lifted, the country is still challenged financially because it needs a lot of money to implement the system on all its mines at the same time,” Joseph Mbaya, Rwanda’s iTSCi Project Manager said.
However, he added, ITRI is expected to provide financial support in the near future which will try to fix the problem and reduce the high risk involved in having DRC’s minerals being misused yet they are a source of living for the communities there.
Early in 2011, ITRI said it would begin relevant tagging projects in DRC provinces of Katanga, North and South Kivu before the April 1 deadline; however, the plan stalled due to insufficient funding.
As a result the international market is sceptical of minerals from those regions, the report says.