First conflict-free tin metal from Congo due in March

Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:40pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - An industry program to revive legal mining in eastern Congo after a crackdown on conflict minerals will produce its first refined tin by the end of March, its organizers said on Tuesday.

So far over 200 tonnes of tin ore have been sold to a Malaysian smelter from the Kalimbi mine in South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the Conflict Free Tin Initiative (CFTI), the organizers said in a statement.

CFTI was designed to allow mineral exports from Congo's violent east to flow again after the U.S. Dodd Frank law largely brought the trade to a standstill.

Some 1,294 artisanal miners are working at the mine and have more than doubled their earnings to $4-$6 per kg from $2/kg, said CFTI, which was set up by UK-based industry body ITRI.

The initiative certifies that the tin ore is conflict-free to ensure it does not fall foul of the law, which requires U.S. companies to ensure their supply does not come from areas controlled by armed groups or corrupt soldiers.

Seven containers of minerals worth about $1.7 million have been exported so far to the Malaysia Smelting Corporation, which is one of the partners in CFTI.

"The expectation is that the first tin metal will leave the smelter around the end of March destined for end-users," the statement said.

The conflict-free tin may have little trouble in finding a buyer. Low stocks and a lack of investment in new tin mines in recent years has limited global supply.

Companies that have pledged to purchase conflict-free minerals include Philips Electronics, Motorola Solutions and Research in Motion.

(Reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Jane Baird)

An artisanal miner washes tin ore before it is bagged up and weighed, ready to be transported to the nearest major town for export in the Kalimbi tin mine near the small town of Nyabibwe, October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jonny Hogg