April 27, 2011 / 11:47 AM / 9 years ago

Rwanda bans export of Congo conflict area minerals

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda has banned the sale of minerals from areas where there is fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in compliance with a U.S. law requiring minerals to be certified conflict-free, its mines minister said.

A Congolese worker separates coltan and cassiterite, or tin ore, in a mud hut at Numbi in eastern Congo July 24, 2010. REUTERS/Katrina Manson

Global Witness, an international research organisation, has in the past accused Kigali of offering a channel for exports of minerals that are used to fund conflicts in eastern DRC.

The affected minerals include tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, which are largely destined for the global electronics industry for use in mobile phones, laptops and other products.

Global Witness said Rwanda was the second biggest export destination for Congolese tin ore and appeared content to let its territory be used as an exit route and laundering zone for conflict minerals. Officials in Kigali reject these allegations.

The minister, Christophe Bazivamo, said the country was now carrying out rigorous due diligence on tin ore originating in conflict areas and would not allow those referred to as conflict minerals to pass through.

“From March this year every mineral export will be sealed. We have placed instructions with our immigration department not to allow any uncertified minerals and also to carry out rigorous due diligence on any ores entering Rwanda from conflict areas,” he said.

This complied with the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act, which requires public companies in America to disclose steps they have taken to eliminate so-called conflict minerals from their supply chains.

Tin is used as a solder in circuit boards, tantalum goes into capacitors — small components used to store electricity — and tungsten is used in the vibrating function of mobile phones. Gold is used by the electronics industry as a coating for wires.

Export volumes of tin ore increased by 115.01 percent in January-March 2011 compared with the same period last year earning the country at least $21.5 million in export revenues, Rwanda’s ministry of finance said.

Rwanda earned a total of $35.3 million from exports of tin, tantalum and tungsten in the first quarter of this year, the ministry added.

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