Tag Archives: Rwanda

Rwanda’s Minerals Trade – Conflict Free or Not?

Earlier this week, Evode Imena, Rwanda’s Minister of State in Charge of Mining appeared before the House Financial Services Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee to provide testimony on the effectiveness of the US conflict minerals requirements under Dodd-Frank Section 1502.  The video of the hearing can be viewed here.

Through his comments, Minister Imena maintained that Rwanda’s situation relative to conflict minerals mining and transportation is completely different from that in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Imena testified that there is no conflict in Rwanda and therefore, Rwanda should be inherently classified as conflict-free under US requirements.  He also denied that Rwanda had any role in mineral/ore smuggling from the DRC.

These statements are at odds with findings presented in the United Nations Group of Experts (GoE) Mid-term Report on the Democratic Republic of Congo issued October 16, 2015.  Paragraphs 56 – 67 of the Report set forth evidence found by GoE of gold smuggling from the DRC into Rwanda and black market sales of iTSCi tags and supporting documentation.

Latest UN Group of Experts Report on DRC and Conflict Minerals

The latest GoE report has been published (156 pages) and at first blush, is critical of conflict minerals traceability effectiveness in the region.  Although recent prior media reports of conflict minerals smuggling have focused on gold, the GoE reports smuggling of cassiterite and coltan from illegal sources to across borders to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

In another related action, the UN Security Council extended the mission of the Group of Experts until August 1, 2016, noting a possibility of additional extensions thereafter.

We will post further thought and commentary after we have reviewed the report in its entirety.

Rwanda Responds to Questions about 2014 Conflict Minerals Production

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who were intrigued by a recent announcement about Rwanda’s tantalum production figures for 2014.  The Rwandan press reports that, in response to concerns voiced about their increased production level,

President Paul Kagame has offered free visa and air ticket to anyone disputing Rwanda’s Coltan (tantalum) production capability to visit the country’s active mining sites.

The 2014 production from Rwanda makes it the “world’s single largest exporter of tantalum mineral”, according to the article.  It will be interesting to see if anyone takes President Kagame up on his offer.

Should Rwanda’s Dramatic Increase in Tantalum Exports Be a Red Flag?

Earlier this week, a press release announced that, as of October 2014, Rwanda had exported 1,931,041 kilograms (1,931 metric tons) of tantalum.  The press release also stated that the official Rwanda tantalum export figures for 2013 were 2,466,025 kilograms (2,466 metric tons).

This piqued our curiosity and we compared these figures to official USGS figures.  We also asked various experts in metals, tantalum production and in-region mining.  Well, we got different answers primarily, as we soon learned, because a kilogram of tantalum has a different meaning depending on who you ask.  In various reporting contexts, “tantalum” refers to:

  • raw ore coming from the mine;
  • concentrate (the result of initial ore processing);
  • tantalum pentoxide; or
  • pure tantalum powder or ingots produced from smelting.

We tracked down someone who was able to clarify and work through the USGS, Rwanda and DRC numbers for us.  He patiently talked us through the various definitions, what point each applies to and the conversion factors between raw ore, concentrate and metal values.  Moreover, he has specific detailed knowledge of in-region production – both official and to an extent, unofficial.

So after all the detailed background made our head spin,  we asked flat out – does the dramatic increase in official Rwandan tantalum exports blatantly demonstrate that tantalum ore (coltan) is being smuggled into Rwanda?

On the other end of the phone, there was more clicking of the keyboard and maybe a calculator.  A bit of mumbling to himself while working through the calculations and referring to various information sources.  Then there was silence.

His final answer – it is “not implausible” that the production figures in the press release properly reflect legal and legitimate production.  He went on to clarify the basis of his opinion, such as:

  • the official DRC governmental figures for coltan exports to Rwanda;
  • limitations related to the USGS figures for 2013;
  • that Rwandan mining cooperatives are much more organized than those in DRC, and therefore contribute more production; and
  • significant growth in commercial mining projects over the past couple of years (the press release points out 22 new commercial projects).

Of course, the final and official 2014 production figures from Rwanda, DRC and USGS won’t be available for a few more months.  But there is reason to be optimistic that the year-over-year increase does not inherently indicate significant leakage of illegal/unverified material into Rwanda.

FDLR Files Official “Warning” to the UN Security Council

Thanks to our friend Harrison Mitchell of RCS Global (one of the members of the Conflict Minerals Consortium with whom we work on various projects) for bringing these fascinating documents to our attention.

First, providing a bit of current background, a Reuters report on UN increased military action in DRC/Rwanda.  Within the past few months, the UN forces in the region changed their mandate from defensive-only tactics, to going on the offense.  Many observers credit the fall of M23 to this change in military tactics.

In response to the UN’s change in direction, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – one of the original militia groups on which the need for Dodd Frank Section 1502 concerning conflict minerals was based – filed a formal letter with the UN Security Council warning the UN Security Council in particular and the UN – International community in general that any attempt of using armed confrontations, with intention to annihilate FDLR is more likely to fail…”  The document provides the FDLR’s position on the history of the conflict in the Great Lakes Region, its political and cultural background and offers evidence of the UN’s bias against the FDLR.  At one point, the FDLR suggests that the UN should “act[] as a genuine “UN Security Council” and not as a “UN Trouble Maker Council.”

Interesting reading at the least.