BGR Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe

Mineral Certification at the BGR

Due Diligence and ASM Formalization in the Great Lakes Region

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) provides employment and a livelihood base for millions of people in developing countries, notably in structurally weak rural areas. As such, ASM activities may form important contributions to national development. However, they require appropriate formalization strategies and governance approaches. Formalization refers to the process of managing ASM activities through developing and implementing ASM-specific policies and regulations in order to establish acceptable production standards. This allows governments to leverage the sector as a contribution to facilitating economic growth and fighting poverty.

To date, ASM governance and regulation strategies by national governments are often challenged by weak enforcement capacities, conditioning the ASM sector’s risk profile with regards to health and safety, environment, child labor, corruption and conflict. While all these risks have been addressed at a global scale – with variable levels of success – it is in particular the association of artisanal mining and mineral trade with conflict financing in certain regions that has captured international attention in recent years.

ASM Conflict Risks

Differentiating legal and illegal involvement of securiy forces in artisanal mining is not always straightforward (police officer at coltan mine in Burundi)Differentiating legal and illegal involvement of securiy forces in artisanal mining is not always straightforward (police officer at coltan mine in Burundi) Source: BGR

The risks for companies to directly or indirectly contribute to conflict through sourcing from conflict-affected and high-risk areas have been documented, in particular, in parts of the ASM sector of central-eastern Africa’s Great Lakes Region. Progressive work by the United Nations Panel/Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as international civil society has revealed how the systematic plunder of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the country has been associated with war, conflict and associated human rights abuses prevailing in the region for almost two decades.

To mitigate these effects, in 2005, the Group of Experts on the DRC proposed that traceability systems should be developed for all relevant natural resources sourced from the DRC, including the 3T- minerals (tin, tungsten and tantalum ores) as well as gold. In 2010, this thought was further refined into specific due diligence recommendations co-developed by the UN Group of Experts on the DRC and an OECD-hosted multi-stakeholder consultation process. Introducing such due diligence measures in an artisanal environment with its characteristic governance and formalization challenges requires an adapted approach.

Reflecting this context, certification systems have been proposed to verify origin, due diligence and ethical quality of mineral production and trade in conflict-affected and high-risk regions such as eastern-central Africa. Mineral certification is seen as a voluntary or mandatory tool to complement other ASM sector formalization efforts and facilitate standard compliance and due diligence in associated supply chains. In recent years, mineral certification efforts along the supply chain have been partly institutionalized. This was largely due to the impact of international mineral sourcing requirements in association with the conflict mineral rule of the US Dodd-Frank Act. It was further influenced through the establishment of regional standards and regulations through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region’s Regional Initiative on Natural Resources.

BGR has continuously been engaged in mineral certification, due diligence and ASM formalization efforts in the region and internationally through a number of technical cooperation projects implemented since 2006.

  • In response to international calls to constrain the origin of “conflict minerals”, BGR scientists started developing the Analytical Fingerprint (AFP) method to evaluate the mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of individual 3T ore deposits and their differentiating features. Scientific work on this method started as early as 2006 and continues to the present day. It is envisaged that AFP may serve as an optional forensic tool to verify the origin of 3T concentrates in certain types of mineral supply chains.
  • Based on an internal study in 2007, BGR developed and refined the mineral certification concept as well as demonstrated its feasibility on a voluntary base through the G8 pilot project on Certified Trading Chains (CTC), implemented in Rwanda from 2008-2011 in cooperation with government and private sector partners.
  • In 2009, a bilateral cooperation program on “Strengthening the transparency and control of the natural resource sector” was initiated between the DR Congo and Germany. The program is currently in its second phase and includes introducing and adapting the CTC concept to the DRC context together with Congolese partner institutions.
  • In 2011, BGR joined the German cooperation program Support to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The multi-phase program currently runs until the end of 2016. The BGR module “Support to regional mineral certification” has two components, namely (1) introducing and transferring AFP technology and management capacity into the Great Lakes Region (including establishing the necessary analytical facilities), and (2) supporting ASM formalization and mineral certification in Rwanda and Burundi.
  • BGR also provides continuous advisory services to the German government, its international partners, the private sector and civil society on all of the above topics. In this context, BGR further supports special research projects and consultation processes.
  • These projects and activities are funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

Timeline of relevant BGR projects

Timeline of relevant BGR projectsTimeline of relevant BGR projects Source: BGR




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