How is the Conflict in the Congo Linked to the Cassiterite Trade Boom?

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December 3, 2008

The ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is essentially an economic war.  The high demand for Congolese cassiterite (tin) and other natural resources has claimed millions of lives, displaced thousands, and transformed the Congo - particularly North and the South Kivu - into a crime scene (sexual violence against women, ethnic cleansing, torture, forced labor, etc.) 

David Barouski, an expert on D.R. Congo the conflict, explores in detail the following questions: What is cassiterite ore and why is it desirable?  How is the conflict in the Congo linked to the cassiterite trade boom?  Who are the actors involved in this trade?  How is it linked to different armed groups in the Congo? Finally, what is being done to try to end this illicit trade?  


David Barouski's 10/19/08 Presentation for Congo Week in Chicago, IL.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Thank you all for coming here tonight. I am deeply honored to be here with you for the beginning of Congo Week. I would especially like to thank Mr. Kambale Musavuli, an inspiring young man, whose initiative, creative vision, compassion, and love for his country made this event and others like it around the world possible. I would like to recognize the main sponsors of Congo Week, the Friends of the Congo (who generously supplied us with the video), the African Faith and Justice Network, Global Congo Action, the Hip Hop Caucus, Global Ministries, the Institute for Policy Studies, Jubilee USA Network, Resist AFRICOM, People to People Liaison, and the Women for the Development of the DRC. I am grateful to all the talented and generous artists and designers who contributed to the Congo Week fundraising CD. I must also personally thank Mrs. Janet Bean for organizing this event, for inviting me to be here, and for offering me her hospitality and generosity. I would like to thank Mr. Kisuule Magala for sharing his thoughtful and unique insights on the Congo and finally, I must thank the staff and management of the Hideout for allowing us to have this venue here tonight and for their kind hospitality. 

Members of the Diaspora,

I am especially pleased and humbled to share in this special event with all of you. I would also like to welcome everyone in the Diaspora community here tonight that does not agree with and/or appreciate my views. The truth is, as a muzungu, I always feel a bit uneasy talking to Africans about your home countries. Therefore, please understand that I am not here to lecture you about Africa. Rather, I am here only to share what I have learned, and I hope that, in turn, you will afford me the honor of learning from you.

Fellow Students,

I want to sincerely thank all of you for taking time out of your busy weekend to attend this important event. About two and a half years ago, I attended an event very similar to this one. I was at Smith College in Massachusetts listening to a panel of speakers talk about the situation in Chad and Darfur. I have seen first-hand the care and compassion that students have towards the suffering of Africans, and I respectfully hope that you will not limit your interest in the Congo to this singular event. Collectively and individually, all of you can make a difference to help bring lasting peace to the Congo, and the Great Lakes Region as a whole.

I am here tonight to share with you what I have learned about the cassiterite ore trade in the Congo, particularly in the North Kivu Province. Essentially, I am going to expand on what we have just seen in the video, which gave us a harrowing look at the human costs of the current practices and conditions involved in the trade. Seeing the reality visually on film is much more effective than any verbal description I can generate. Given this fact, my presentation tonight will focus instead on the specifics of the trade. I will discuss the various actors involved in the trade, and how their roles have changed over time. I will show how the cassiterite trade is directly linked to warring factions in the Congo and how it financially sustains their activities.

Before I begin though, I must state that this presentation was created with the presumption of speaking to an audience that possesses some background knowledge of the ongoing crisis, and a working geographic knowledge of the Congo. Therefore, I must apologize in advance to all of you who are relatively new to this subject matter. What this means in practice is that I will not spend much time providing background details on the larger armed groups and most individual actors. For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know what to expect from this presentation. For the rest of you, I apologize in advance if my approach is not to your liking, and I sincerely hope that I do not lose anyone in the details and acronyms along the way. I also apologize for any mispronunciations I may commit henceforth.

Let us begin with two obvious but important questions: What is cassiterite ore and why is it desirable?

Its value comes from the fact that it yields tin after smelting.  In 2004, new environmental laws were enacted in Japan and the European Union (E.U.) that forced all lead-based solder to be replaced with tin as soon as possible, raising its market demand considerably. Solder is used extensively in the electronics industry to connect wiring components to circuit boards.  According to a December 2007 report by Finnwatch, the global solder market accounts for nearly half for the world's tin consumption, and 70% of the world's solder is sold to the electronics industry. I will expand on this point later. Cassiterite also has applications in the automotive industry and can be used as a coating on metal to prevent corrosion.  

Exponential growth in China's booming industrial sector also contributed to a greater market demand for tin. This demand was further augmented by other Asian countries with fast-growing industrial sectors like Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.  Japan also significantly contributed to world demand for cassiterite. As mentioned earlier, Japan enacted environmental laws that increased their demand for tin as a replacement for lead solder. This demand was in addition to the growing needs of their massive electronics industry and automotive production sector. 

The Congo is important to the world market because it contains roughly a third of the world's cassiterite ore reserves and produces about 4% of the world's tin supply. Cassiterite was first discovered in the Kivus back in 1910, and by the 1940s, Congo was the world's 2nd largest producer. However, infrastructure, including the state-owned mining entities, progressively decayed during the Mobutu era, and cassiterite production dropped off sharply as a result. This coincided with a drop in global demand for tin. The tin trade eventually rebounded in 2004, in large part due to the aforementioned environmental laws. To give you an idea of the officially recorded export statistics during the tin market's revival, the North Kivu Division of Mines office in Goma registered exports of 938 tons in 2003, 4,672 tons in 2004, 3,599 tons in 2005, and 2,904 tons in 2006. Again, keep in mind this is only the registered exports, and does not include smuggled ore, or ore handled directly by the Congolese military. United Nations' investigators estimate that 70% of the cassiterite mined in the Congo is smuggled out of the country. To my knowledge, Rwanda has not publicly released official data on its cassiterite exports since 2004. In that year, Rwanda exported 1,800 tons more cassiterite than they actually produced, demonstrating large-scale smuggling occurred.

Cassiterite is most often found in the same general mining areas as coltan. Coltan was the most coveted ore in the Congo from 1998 until 2001. The most valuable cassiterite deposits in the Congo are found in Walikale Territory.  They account for 70% of North Kivu's cassiterite production. The most coveted deposit in Walikale Territory is located in Bisie or, as some researchers denote it, the Mpama/Bisie mine.  In addition to cassiterite, Bisie also contains smaller deposits of diamonds, uranium, gold, cobalt, and bauxite (or aluminum) ore.  It is a long trip from Walikale town into the Kakalo Forest of the Wassa Groupement, where the mine is located. It usually takes a day or two to get there by foot, especially during rainy season if the weather is bad.   There are two villages along the way, called Manoré and Marojé where miners, porters, and traders can stop and purchase supplies.

As shown in the video, cassiterite mining in the Kivu provinces is not industrial. In Bisie, there are roughly 167 individual mining areas comprised of alluvial and open pit surface mining sites along with underground hard rock sites. At least 29 of these pits are controlled by elements of the Congolese National Army, or FARDC. Each pit can be worked for about three months.  Around 1,800 people work in some capacity at the mining sites. Roughly 1,100 of them are artisanal miners, meaning that they labor by hand with pickaxes and shovels. At least 300 of these miners are children that are small enough to fit into the narrow tunnels. According to a report by the Initiative for Central Africa, 20% were either orphans or had no idea where their families were. The pits and their corresponding tunnels are very dangerous. In February 2007, the Walikale Territorial Director and the Director of North Kivu's Provincial Division of Mines officially declared the site unsafe.   

After digging up the ore in Bisie, traders meet the artisanal miners in the village of Mubi or Ndjingala to appraise each dig's value. After appraisal, the ore is purchased by comptoirs that are licensed to buy from artisanal miners. Until only recently, most of the comptoirs operating in Mubi did not have a purchasing license.  A comptoir is a privately-owned business that buys the raw ore extracted from the mines before it is processed. However, it is not uncommon for the comptoir operators to purify the ore on site through crushing and washing techniques designed to remove impurities.

From Mubi and Ndjingala, wealthy traders and comptoir owners have the ore flown out of Walikale Territory by hiring small charter planes to fly it back to Goma or Kigali.  Gomair, Doren Air Africa Limited, Goma Express, and Kivu Air are the most commonly contracted air cargo freight companies. The road near Kilambo village is the only viable airstrip in Walikale Territory besides Nzovu. The Kilambo airstrip was originally a road connecting Mubi, Walikale town, and Kisangani, but it degraded so much during the years Mobutu was president that vehicles can no longer travel safely on it. The road is tarred over, but has numerous gaping potholes. As a result, only small charter or cargo planes can take off and land there effectively.  It was used as a makeshift airstrip during the 2nd Congo War to deploy soldiers deep into Walikale Territory. In recent years, there have been several plane crashes on the road. Rebuilding this road is a priority of President Joseph Kabila's administration to facilitate better access to the mines and eventually connect Kisangani to Goma.

Now, I am going to reconstruct the supply chain, while occasionally diverging to illustrate some important points. 

Once the planes offload the ore in Goma, it may be further purified at a comptoir's central headquarters before export. Each comptoir generally specializes in one or two specific ores. Once the purified ore is ready for export, a transporter is hired by the comptoir to move the shipment by land. Kivu Transport and Handling (TMK), Transami, SDV Agretraf, and Jambo Safari are the most often hired transporting companies. They drive the ore to a port, either Mombasa, Kenya, or Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaMombasa is the preferred destination, primarily because it is the better developed of the two ports.  Most drivers get there by travelling through Uganda via the Bunagana-Kasese-Kabale route. 

Since mid-2007, General Laurent Nkunda's National Congress of the Defense of the People (CNDP) has controlled the Bunagana border post. General Nkunda's younger brother was even seen in the area during February 2008. The CNDP uses it as part of a supply route to smuggle in weapons, supplies, and military reinforcements from Rwanda.  According to sources in the region, the External Intelligence Office of Rwanda's Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) has established an effective surveillance network along this supply route. It is comprised of several Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) soldiers dressed in civilian clothes positioned in Bunagana, Kisoro, and Cyanika. By communicating to each other with shortwave radios, they are able to coordinate the movement of RDF soldiers, arms, and supplies back and forth across the border at Bunagana without being seen by military observers. The same sources also claim General Nkunda's main arms caches are held in two of Rwanda's largest military bases: Gabiro (in the Mutura region of Northeast Rwanda) and Kanombe. 

The CNDP also recruits fighters around Bunagana. On May 21st, the Ugandan People's Defense Force's 2nd Division arrested Lieutenant John Nganizi of the CNDP and six Ugandan nationals working with him. Lieutenant Nganizi was recruiting young and unemployed youth for General Nkunda in Uganda's Mbarara District by promising them employment in the Congo and money upfront. Since they took control of Bunagana, the CNDP and Rwandan soldiers have had several gunfights with Ugandan army soldiers in Ugandan territory over their use of the border post. The last reported sighting I received of General Nkunda was in Uganda's Kabale District.

By controlling the Bunagana border post, the CNDP is able to tax exporters on North Kivu's busiest transportation route. Rwanda potentially benefits from this arrangement as well because travelers have few viable options if they do not want to deal with the CNDP. Ore transporters can take the Ishasha-Kabale route, but the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda/ Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi (FDLR-FOCA) and the FARDC periodically clash in this area. They can also travel up north to Vitshumbi, but then they have to take their chances with the Mai-Mai, FDLR/FOCA, and government soldiers who inhabit the area. The other option is to go to Rwanda through Goma unhindered. However, travelling through Uganda is much cheaper than travelling through Rwanda. Vehicles transporting exports are stopped at Magerwa in Kigali and heavily taxed, which raises money for the Rwandan state coffers.

Once at the ports, cargo shipping companies are hired to deliver the ore overseas. Interfreight Panalpina is the company most often contracted for this purpose. C. Steinweg, a Rotterdam-based shipping company that also offers ore purifying and packaging services, reportedly ships a small amount of cassiterite from Congo to Hong Kong. C. Steinweg was among the companies named in the 2001 UN Panel of Experts Report.  Meanwhile, smugglers who do not have export and/or mining licenses may purchase or dig for cassiterite and then sneak across the Congo-Rwandan border on foot under the cover of darkness. Comptoir owners may even choose to take this route. They save money by avoiding Congo's steep customs taxes.  However, smuggling means less money for the national and provincial coffers from tax and customs revenue. Money that, at least in theory, could be spent on development. Another way to smuggle ore includes bribing customs officials to deliberately register a smaller amount of product so as to reduce progressive customs taxes charged according to weight. Smugglers may choose to work closely with local military officials in order to procure a way around formal taxation, and/or they may hide ore in shipments of other commodities that are taxed less, so long as the weight discrepancies are overlooked.


Now, I would like to look in depth at the comptoirs in Goma. Senator Edouard Hizi Mwangachuchu, owns a comptoir called MHI.  In 1996, Mr. Mwangachuchu was a political refugee in the United States after leaving the country following the invasion by Laurent Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL-CZ) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), along with some Burundians and Angolans.  When he returned to the Congo in 1998, he founded MHI with his business partner; an American physician from Baltimore named Robert Sussman.  They were interested in mineral deposits in Masisi Territory. There are smaller cassiterite deposits around Luwowo in Masisi Territory, but the infrastructure is so poor, it can only be worked by artisanal miners at the present time. The Mumba/Bibatama mine, also located in Masisi Territory near Rubaya, has coltan, wolframite (tungsten) and cassiterite deposits. They purchased land-use rights on Mataba Hill from the Rally for Congolese Democracy's (RCD) Mining Department, bypassing the approval of the Congolese Ministry of Mining, the recognized state entity in charge of mining licenses.  They then proceeded to hire armed guards to protect their investment. 

Currently, CNDP soldiers reportedly inhabit the mining site. 600 to 900 artisanal miners and forced laborers work the area under their watch. They are taxed by the CNDP soldiers, or are forced to work for the soldiers themselves. The soldiers sell the ore to friendly comptoirs in Goma or have it smuggled across the border to Rwanda in order to make money for their commanding officers. Smuggled ore can be repackaged and put inside drums in Kigali, and then exported as if the point of origin was RwandaRwanda has its own comptoirs that can purchase and export the ore. There is also Alfred H. Knight, an international firm named in past UN Reports on natural resource exploitation in the Congo. The company offers professional ore certification and repackaging services that can be shipped to one of Alfred Knight's numerous satellite locations all over the world.

The Rwandan town of Gisenyi, just across the border from Goma, has a cassiterite smelting plant operated by Metal Processing Association (MPA). MPA was founded by Mr. Bruce Stride and Mr. Brian Christophers, both South African natives. MPA is associated with Mr. Tribert Rujugiro, a major financial backer of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party. Mr. Rujugiro is a business partner of another South African, Mr. Nick Watson, who is an executive manager of MPA. Just this morning, Mr. Rujugiro was prevented from leaving London because of a South African arrest warrant charging him with tax evasion. MPA made a deal for 37 mining concessions with the Congolese state-owned mining firm SAKIMA SARL in 2004. However, MPA's tin smelter reportedly had to shut down in April 2006, due to a lack of consistent electricity supply. 

In Goma, MPA has a subsidiary called Metal Processing Congo (MPC). MPC is one of the largest volume cassiterite purchasing comptoirs in North Kivu. A 2005 phonebook from the Democratic Republic of the Congo lists Metal Processing Congo's manager as Mr. Ivo Blauwers. According to some accounts, MPA was the parent company of Mining Processing Congo, a small cassiterite buyer and exporter in Goma. A 2005 phonebook for the Democratic Republic of the Congo listed Mining Processing Congo SPRL's manager as Mr. Norbert Friedrich.  

There are several other comptoirs in Goma. The second largest exporter of cassiterite is Sodexmines, which is currently run by a Lebanese businessman from Kinshasa named Basem, who owns a British passport. Sources claim Basem took over the comptoir in 2005. Prior to 2005, he ran a diamond comptoir in Kasai. Sodexmines is known to buy cassiterite on site in Bisie. The company is currently part of the Kirchner Group, which owns the BIAC and the Western Union franchise in Congo

Amur is the largest cassiterite exporter. It is run by a man named Antoine Bizi, who is from Idjiwi Island. He has good ties with provincial administrators and he has food supply contracts with the World Food Programme. Munsad is another larger volume cassiterite exporter in Goma.  Smaller comptoirs include Ets Panju and Bakulikira, which will be mentioned again later. Notably, the comptoirs have an association called, in English, the Association of Mineral Traders in North Kivu. Sources say its president, Mr. John Kanyoni Nsana, a former member of parliament in the Transitional Government for the RDC-Goma party, is a nephew of General Nkunda.

The comptoirs export to overseas middlemen, also known as "clients," or "brokers." They, in turn, sell to industrial consumers that make a product, or part of a product that will then be shipped elsewhere for integration into a finished product. Cassiterite ore is very rarely processed by the middlemen. A few may process it onsite if they have the means, but the vast majority outsource the processing to a third party company, who smelts the cassiterite ore into tin. Metallo-Chimique of Beerse, located in Belgium's Antwerp Province, is the only major tin producer in Europe. However, most of the middlemen outsource to Asia because, despite rising shipping costs, the labor and materials costs for the processing are cheap, the exchange rate remains relatively favorable, and there are no restrictions from environmental laws in much of Asia. These factors make it the most profitable option for the middlemen.

In China, the world's largest tin producer, Ningxia, the Jiujian Nonferrous Smelter, Liuzhou China Tin, Yunnan Tin, the Tanbre's Smelter, and Yunnan Chengfeng smelters are the cassiterite processors most often utilized. In Malaysia, there is the widely-used Malaysia Smelting Corporation. In Thailand, Thaisarco, is the primary ore processor. Notably, according to UN statistics, Thailand recorded more cassiterite imports from the Congo in 2006 than any other country in Asia. Thaisarco makes solder used by Microsoft and Samsung. I have received reports that Singapore Tin Industries, a joint venture between KJP International and Yunnan Tin Company, is increasingly popular as a source for smelting since 2006. Even if this smelter receives cassiterite from Congo, Singapore has more environmental restrictions than its competitors, and some of the other costs are greater there as well, so it is a less attractive option for the time being.

After processing, the tin is shipped back to the middlemen. In Europe, shipments usually arrive in Antwerp, Belgium or Rotterdam, Holland, and then travel over land to their final destination. Companies like Hollands-Veem in Rotterdam provide warehouse storage for ore shipments, as well as shipping options into Europe's interior. Port authorities in Rotterdam claim that Hollands-Veem is actually part of C. Steinweg, which acts as a joint Belgian-Dutch company. In the United States, the east coast harbors are utilized, and then the product is shipped by truck to its destination. The middlemen companies, if they have the onsite capabilities, may process the tin further. Either way, the middlemen will sell the tin to companies who will use it to manufacture a part or product, most often located on the same continent.

There are a number of middlemen in Europe, some of which have onsite processing capabilities. Outside of Asia, Belgium is the primary importer of Congolese cassiterite. Sodexmines sells to SDE, located in Brussels and directed by Mr. Edwin Raes. SDE is a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Elwyn Blattner Group. Mr. Elwyn Blattner, who hails from Bayonne, N.J, owns several businesses in the Congo through his firm, African Holding Company of America. They include logging concessions, transportation, and palm oil plantations. The products produced by these businesses are also imported by SDE.

Amur and Munsad supply cassiterite to Trademet, a company named in the 2001 UN Panel of Experts report on mineral smuggling in the Congo. Trademet was created in 1989 by Mr. Freddy Muylaert with startup money from his wealthy family.  It is headquartered in Grez-Doiceau, located in Belgium's Walloon Brabant Province. A source in Congo states that Mr. Muylaert has good relations all of the largest comptoirs in Goma, and he even personally visits Goma every once and a while.

MPC transfers some of its ore to Metmar Trading, a South African company that also buys directly from artisanal miners in South Kivu. The majority of their ore is exported to MPA in Rwanda, the 2nd largest recipient of cassiterite exports from Congo after Belgium. Back in 2002, MPA had an import-export contract with Hochschild Partners LLC, which is based in New York City and run by brothers Michael and Peter Hochschild. They, in turn, transferred the ore to Arcelor S.A., which has merged with Mittal Steel (formerly known as ISCOR) to become the world's largest steel producing company. In 2003, Arcelor Mittal's trading subsidiary, Considar, the parent company of Hochschild Partners, merged with Sogem, the trading arm of Umicore, Belgium's mineral industry trading giant.  The new company was named Traxys and is headquartered in Luxembourg, with satellite offices across Europe. Peter Hochschild is the acting Executive Vice President of Traxy and Michael Hochschild is the current Director of Business Development.

Umicore was also named in the U.N. Panel of Experts Report mentioned earlier and is another one of the notable middlemen purchasers of cassiterite. Currently on Umicore's Board of Directors is Mr. Jonathan Oppenheimer, of the well-known Oppenheimer family. His father, Mr. Nicky Oppenheimer, is the Chairman of De Beers and a large shareholder in Anglo-American. Anglo-American, founded by the Oppenheimer family, is the largest gold mining company in the world and the majority shareholder in De Beers. Also on Umicore's Board is Mr. Jean-Luc Dehaene of the Flemish Christian Democrat party, today known as the CD&V. He was the prime minister of Belgium from 1992-1999, a tenure that covered part of the Rwandan War, the Rwandan Genocide, the 1st Congo War, and the beginning of the 2nd Congo War.

If the tin is not processed further by the middlemen, solder producers are most often the end buyer. It is estimated that 60% of the tin purchased by solder producers comes from large companies like the Asian smelters, and 40% comes from middlemen companies. Taiwan's Foxconn provides a representative example of an end-buyer company. Foxconn uses tin solder to manufacture IPods, motherboards for Intel, and electronics components for Sony, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, and their various subsidiaries. Foxconn also produces a large portion of the circuit boards used in Sony Ericsson's cell phones. Mass-production companies like Foxconn may buy tin derived from cassiterite that originated in the Congo, but they also buy large quantities of cassiterite originating from China, Indonesia, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil.

At this point, I would like to provide a narrative of the conflict that coincided with the cassiterite trade boom. 

Not coincidentally, the initial increased demand for cassiterite ore coincided with the beginning of General Laurent Nkunda's insurrection. On May 26, 2004, Colonel Jules Mutebusi, a Tutsi officer who mutinied from the Congolese army, led an attack on government forces in the city of Bukavu. Days later, General Nkunda led a large group of mutineers and Rwandan Army soldiers south to Bukavu. They claimed they were intervening to stop a genocide against Banyamulenge civilians in Bukavu, but subsequent investigations were unable to turn up any evidence that genocide took place. General Nkunda occupied Bukavu for several days, drawing Congolese army and UN military reinforcements to South Kivu. Eventually, after a negotiating a deal, Colonel Mutebusi pulled out and went to Rwanda while General Nkunda and a contingent of soldiers withdrew to Minova, located on the border of North and South Kivu. He threatened to return to Bukavu and attack, freezing the military forces along the Minova front and in South Kivu

Then, Colonel Mutebusi and about 315 soldiers staged an attack on Kamanyola, located south of Bukavu. The UN Mission in Congo, known by the acronym MONUC, sent reinforcements and pushed him back into Burundi, where he travelled back north to Rwanda.  The attack successfully pulled some MONUC and FARDC reinforcements further south. According to a UN report, 47 of Colonel Mutebusi's men crossed back into Congo with Colonel Bisogo and another 200 went unaccounted for. The 47 who crossed back into Congo were intercepted by FDLR-FOCA soldiers in South Kivu carrying weapons, communications equipment, and logistical support equipment. The unaccounted soldiers, including Colonel Bisogo, eventually joined the "Moramvia Group," which is today said to be known as the Federal Republican Forces.  Based in Kamombo and lead by Michael Rukunda, they advocate for Minembwe to become a federal Congolese territory, which was originally a goal of the RCD-Goma. This group attacked the FARDC in January 2007, and after a prolonged battle, a ceasefire agreement was reached. As of today, they have refused to enter the Amani program.

Digressing to 2004, the government and UN forces were spread fairly thin and the largest deployments were still in South Kivu.  Taking advantage of the situation, General Nkunda and his allies attacked in North Kivu and took control of Walikale Territory in September 2004. General Nkunda's soldiers warned several of the comptoirs in Mubi at gunpoint not to buy ore from the FARDC, Mayi-Mayi, or FDLR/FOCA. 

When the fighting died down, General Obedi, an RCD-Goma sympathizer and the FARDC's Commander of the 8th Military Region at the time, held a meeting for all the comptoirs in Goma. It was attended by representatives of MPC, Groupe Mesol, Comtex, Divimines, Clanab, Munsad, and Sodexmines, who was reportedly already buying ore from RCD-Goma. General Obedi tried to convince them to buy from General Nkunda and RCD-Goma party members like Governor Serufuli and the Makabuza brothers rather than government loyalists and the Mayi-Mayi. Meanwhile, under the guard of General Nkunda's soldiers, privately rented charter planes were flying into the Kilambo airstrip to pick up cassiterite mined in Bisie and then delivering the ore to Kigali. General Nkunda was spotted in Lubutu, located in the nearby Maniema Province, where he was supervising the extraction of cassiterite. 

Shortly after the battle for Walikale, a ceasefire was reached between General Nkunda and the FARDC. One of the conditions was that the FARDC had to withdraw from the Minova front. Once they pulled back, General Nkunda's men seized control of the Numbi mine located south of Minova. Numbi is primarily a coltan mine, but it also contains cassiterite and small deposits of red garnet, wolframite, and tourmaline. During the 2nd Congo War, the Rwandan Army used Hutu prisoners as slave labor in the Numbi mine. With possession of these two mines, General Nkunda and his allies could make ample profit to fund their insurrection and personally enrich themselves if they so desired. 

In mid-October 2004, General Nkunda lost control of Walikale for about two weeks to FDLR/FOCA and Mayi-Mayi forces that launched a counter-attack.  General Nkunda, along with reinforcements from the Rwandan Army, reestablished control and set up barricades along all the main roads from Walikale town so they could strictly control access to the mines and extort money from artisanal miners and traders who travelled along the roads. Rwandan helicopters were seen landing in the area directly exchanging arms for cassiterite ore. By November, senior Rwandan Army officers were deployed to the Kilambo airstrip in order to provide security for cargo planes that were delivering arms to the Congo and taking ore back to Kigali.

At this point, it is important to provide an in-depth profile of a few of the most important actors in Congo's cassiterite trade.

One is Mr. Modeste Makabuza, a Tutsi from Masisi Territory, and key financier of the CNDP.  He was once the managing director and chairman of the board for Société Minière du Kivus (SOMIKIVU).  Mr. Makabuza is reportedly a relative of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, but it must be stressed that no direct business ties between the two have ever been conclusively demonstrated. Modeste is the brother of Mr. Alexis Makabuza, a former member of parliament in the Transitional Government and the former President of former North Kivu Governor Eugene Serufuli's now defunct non-governmental organization (NGO) "All for Peace and Development" (TPD), which was accused of illegal arms distribution in direct violation of a U.N. arms embargo on the Congo.  The TPD was accused by Global Witness of transporting and trading coltan and cassiterite in Goma and Alexis was reportedly in charge of this operation. Alexis also owns his own comptoir in Goma that exports cassiterite to Malaysia.

Mr. Modeste runs Jambo Safari, one of the largest transport companies in North Kivu. Jambo Safari also offers tourism packages to remote destinations, including until recently, gorilla safaris in Virunga National Park offered through the Congo Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN). According to a U.N. report, when the 2nd Congo War began in 1998, Mr. Makabuza used Jambo Safari to import oil from Kenya and sell it in the Congo for profit.

Mr. Makabuza used to be a major shareholder in Air Navette, a cargo airliner that flew to and from Goma, Bukavu, Kisangani, Gabadolite, Kampala, Bunia, Gamena, and Kigali.  In the past, this company was reportedly involved in transporting illegally-mined minerals to Kigali. According to UN investigators, the company was hired several times by Ugandan General Salim Saleh (Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's half-brother) and (then) Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba. Mr. Modeste also owns the Goma branch of the Kenyan private security firm KK Securities. He is a shareholder in Supercell (a telecommunications company) and he owns the Société Congolaise d'Assurances et de Rassurances (SCAR), a large Congolese insurance company with branches in Bukavu and Goma. Many of these individuals will appear later in our narrative.

In late November 2004, wide-scale violence broke out again. General Nkunda's men were reinforced by Rwandan soldiers and they initiated attacks across North Kivu. However, FARDC reinforcements were quickly airlifted in and after they joined forces with the Bahunde Mayi-Mayi militias, they were able to recapture control of Walikale Territory. General Gabriel Amisi, the FARDC's Ground Forces Commander who once fought alongside General Nkunda in the 2nd Congo War, cut a deal with the Mayi-Mayi to allow the cargo flights to Goma to resume. In exchange, the Mayi-Mayi were allowed to share in the profits. The deal cut out FDLR/FOCA, who previously had a profit-sharing agreement with the FARDC in Walikale Territory. Without a source of income, some of the FDLR/FOCA soldiers migrated to northern Masisi Territory and Lubero Territory. FDLR/FOCA was not the only one who was upset with General Amisi seizing de facto control of Bisie. According to an internal company document I received from a mining firm that used to operate in North Kivu, Modeste ordered a hit on General Amisi and even fronted $15,000 for the job. However, a loyal intelligence agent leaked the plot to General Amisi. Mr. Makabuza reportedly found out that the plot was leaked and he fled to Rwanda before any retaliatory action was taken against him.

In 2005, the Bandagula Association owned by Babuni Motokotoko, Fikiri Mayani, and Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka received a mining permit from the North Kivu Provincial Minister of Mines, Emmanuel Ndimubanze Ngoroba. In June 2005, Ramazani Kokoli, Moke Mabisi, Fikiri Mayani, Nuhombo Shemihiyo and Ntabo Taberi Sheka created Bangandula Company SPRL and quickly sent their representatives to Walikale Territory to get a mining contract from the resident Bassa clan. The contract would allow them to send the cassiterite extracted from Bisie to purchasing agents in Goma, including MPC and Sodexmines, who are rivals.

After the contract was signed, the Bangandula Mining Group (hencefore BMG) was formed on September 23, 2005, as a joint venture between Bangandula Company SPRL, the Saphyr Society, run by Alexis Makabuza, Mapatano, and 10 private investors, including Modeste Makabuza. Through Saphyr, Alexis Makabuza became the primary shareholder and controller of the company.  Shortly after its creation, BMG set up a comptoir in Goma for purchasing and exporting cassiterite. SAKIMA (chaired by Mr. Amisi Mudjanahery), with the support of the Minister of Finance and the (then) RCD-Goma Minister of Economy, then signed a deal with Bangandula for numerous concessions in Walikale Territory, bypassing the Congolese Ministry of Mines.  After signing the deal, Alexis Makabuza immediately set up barricades from Walikale town down to Hombo and forced artisanal miners to pay mineral extraction ‘taxes.' 

Not long after BMG set up the barricades, MPC and BMG entered a bitter legal battle over the right to mine in Bisie. MPC had obtained an exploration permit from the Ministry of Mines in Kinshasa on September 29th, 2006, while Bangandula had their lease agreement for the concession from SAKIMA SARL.  MPC insisted that Bisie was not a part of the concession that BMG was leasing.  Mr. Chantal Bashizi, the director of the mining land register, agreed with MPC, but the local mwami (chief) refused to side with either company meaning that customary laws for land-usage rights were not enacted.

At the height of the legal battle, Bangandula made a deal with the territorial administrator of Walikale, Dieudonne Tshishiku Mutoka. In exchange for 10% of the weekly profits, Administrator Mutoka would ensure Bangandula's security, which essentially meant that MPC representatives would be forcibly kept out of the area. The FARDC's unincorporated 85th Brigade, which was deployed in Walikale in April 2006, was going to control access to the mining area. The 85th Battalion is comprised of ex-Mayi-Mayi fighters formerly under the command of Colonel Shé Kasikila, who fought against General Nkunda.  However, while performing their "guard duties," the soldiers stole large quantities of bauxite ore from other miners and intimidated rival tradesmen in the area. They set up roadblocks, harassed traders in transit to and from Bukavu, illegally taxed local artisanal miners, raped women, and tortured the rape victims' respective husbands if they resist. Seeing an opportunity to profit for themselves, they have also force locals to mine for them. This occurred even after Administrator Mutoka and Mr. Ndimubaze declared the area both unsafe and unsuitable for mining. Colonel Samy Matumo, the commander of the 85th Brigade, reportedly has his friends and brothers manage some of the mine shafts in Bisie and they also act as his own personal tax collectors at Bisie's exit points. 85th Battalion soldiers have even fought amongst each other for total dominance over the mining area and its illicit taxation system.  Colonel Matumo, denies all wrongdoing despite its admittance by Colonel Delphin Kahimbi, (then) the Deputy Commander of the 8th Military Region (North Kivu Province).  

President Joseph Kabila and the FARDC's Chief of Staff have done nothing to integrate these renegade soldiers into the FARDC, nor have they seriously tried to stop the rampant human rights abuses.  The only recorded disciplinary actions are the arrest of a single soldier from the 85th Brigade for killing a civilian in Walikale town, and the arrest of another 85th Brigade soldier on December 26, 2007, for shooting a man in the foot after he refused to hand over his valuables in Mubi.  

The dispute between BMG and MPC deteriorated to the point where an MPC employee was severely wounded near the company's camp by soldiers of the 85th Brigade on October 29, 2006. Undaunted by the attack, MPC still wanted to build industrial mining units in the area. However, this plan caused concern with the artisanal miners, who were worried they would be pushed out. Seizing on the opportunity for a political advantage within the local community, 11 of Bangandula's shareholders, including Alexis Makabuza, joined with 10 local landowners and founded COMIMPA (Cooperative Miniere Mpama de Bisiye). COMIMPA claimed to represent the interests of the artisanal miners and, for political effect, framed themselves as a locally-based entity up against an international corporation looking to exploit the land. MPC countered by aiding the foundation of a rival cooperative called COCABI (Coopérative des Creuseurs Artisanaux de Bisie). However, COCABI was not initially very successful in attracting support.

However, MPC was eventually able to gain the edge they needed. On December 30, 2006, Benjamin Moore and Yves Van Winden signed a development pact on behalf of MPC with Mwami Kiroba Mulengezi, who represented the local chiefs. MPC agreed to pay $90 U.S. dollars to Walikale Territory's coffers for every ton of cassiterite they bought. Since they planned to industrialize the mining, the agreement included a clause stipulating preferential employment for Walikale Territory natives, and each grouppment, or chiefdom in Walikale Territory would be allowed to have its own open pit for artisanal mining. In addition, MPC was going to build each chief a new house, and every chiefdom would receive a primary and secondary school, two medical dispensaries, and a workshop with a working power generator. Finally, MPC would sponsor one child's school and transportation fees in each chiefdom.

The only problem was that the 85th Brigade supported COMIMPA. MPC quickly realized they could not conduct any business without appeasing both factions. As a compromise, MPC signed a deal establishing COMIMPA as a middleman between the artisanal miners and the comptoirs, giving the two a monopoly on cassiterite production in Walikale Territory. In addition, MPC agreed to buy 50% of COMIMPA's production outright. The artisanal miners made less under the deal, but some of the money was supposed to go to the state for development funds.

In January 2007, MPC reinforced its claim through the creation of Kivu Resources, a new firm registered offshore in Mauritus. Kivu Resources is wholly owned by Virgin Islands-based Edin Mining, who's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Alan Smith, was named the CEO of Kivu Resources.  The investment groups behind Kivu Resources are Jonas Capital, owned by famous mining magnate Sir Samuel Jonah, and Ireland-based Coronation Capital, a subsidiary of Coronation Fund Managers. They act as the primary shareholders. South Africa's Metmar Limited, mentioned earlier, is also a shareholder. The company's operations are managed by MPC's Bruce Stride and Brian Christophers is the General Manager. Nick Watson, another MPC executive mentioned earlier, is a non-executive director of Kivu Resources. MPC and MPA were integrated as subsidiaries of Kivu Resources, as was Central African Resources SPRL, a firm owned by South African and British shareholders that is reportedly interested in building a tin smelter in Kalima. Collectively at the time, Kivu Resources also held mining concessions in South Kivu through a joint venture between Central African Resources SPRL and SAKIMA; and in Gatumba, Bijyojya, and Rugendabari through a joint venture between MPA and the Rwandan Government. The company owns cassiterite processing facilities in Gisenyi, Gatumba, and Goma.

In February, as an interagency governmental delegation visited Walikale Territory and condemned the ongoing situation, the provincial ministry of mines instituted a ban on all mining in Walikale Territory. Provincial officials also wanted the 85th Brigade to report to FARDC barracks, but they knew doing so would create a war power vacuum in their absence and a war would likely break out over control of the mine. Fearful an enemy faction would seize control of Bisie, they decided against the idea.  The ban did little good. Instead of shipping directly from Kilambo, the ore was taken by road to the Orientale Province or Maniema in South Kivu. From there, the ore was flown back to Goma because the other provinces were not under any mining ban. In March, the Minister of Mine Martin Kabwelulu warned the Defense Minister that his men were still smuggling cassiterite ore out of Walikale Territory in violation of the ban. Eventually, realizing that it was woefully ineffective, officials gave up on the ban and formally removed it in late July of 2007.  

In June 2007, COMIMPA was formally installed in Bisie by Administrator Mutoka. By this time though, COMIMPA was not popular amongst the artisanal miners. Immediately after the ceremony, COMIMPA entered into talks with COCABI to forge an agreement and be able to recast their image to the artisanal miners. COMIMPA claimed it had severed its ties to Alexis Makabuza.  A source who researched the area in depth refutes this claim because they established via obtained invoices that Mr. Makabuza continues to do business with COMIMPA. For his part, Mr. Makabuza opened up a new cassiterite trading firm under the name Global Mining Company.  In addition, BMG acquired mining rights on several ex-SAKIMA concessions, which Mr. Makabuza is reportedly focusing his time on. However, BMG's contract is under review by the Congolese Government. 

Also in June 2007, North Kivu's Governor Julien Paluku issued a decree that intended to mainstream artisanal miner products into the official market, however the agency tasked with this initiative, Saesscam, is underfunded and its bureaucracy is virtually undeveloped.  The Director of Goma's Airport, Thomas Oleko, successfully called for a ban on all cargo flights in North Kivu due to unpaid taxes by the transport companies. The cassiterite trade slowed down for a short time, but the ban did not last long. Plans were announced to build a real runway in Walkale.

In July 2007, there were rumors that FARDC military authorities were going to integrate the 85th Brigade into the FARDC and replace them with the 15th Mixed Brigade in Kisangani. Colonel Matumo was recalled to Goma and asked to report to General Vainqueur Mayala Kiama, then the commander of the 8th Military Region. General Mayala told him that the actions of his men were excessive. He dispatched several military intelligence agents (ANR) under his direct command to Walikale in an effort to sort things out. However, they only proceeded to recuperate tin for themselves. Some of these agents still remain there today and there are reports that they have prevented government officials from inspecting Kilambo.   It is unclear at this time if General Mayala was involved in the racket. Following the ANR's failure to restore order, military justice officials were dispatched to Walikale Territory, but they did not have any appreciable effect. In fact, the 85th Brigade, on orders from higher up, began to take over Bisie and push out both COMIMPA and MPC.  By September, Kivu Resources made a formal request to Deputy Defense Minister Nelson Paluku to recall the 85th Brigade from Walikale Territory.

The call went unheeded. By December 2007, the 85th Brigade was in full control. They set upcheckpoints at the entrance and the exit of the trail connecting the villages of Ndjingala and Manoiré.  They erected checkpoints between the mining sites and the villages of Manoiré and Marojé. Territorial police, the ANR, representatives of the local chiefs, and even members of the Department of Health all got in on the racket and collaborated to man the checkpoints and collect taxes. 

The money earned by the 85th Brigade from taxation, extortion, and selling the cassiterite, which is ultimately managed by a powerful Congolese politician and senior FARDC official, either enriches certain members of the FARDC military hierarchy and their backers, or it is used to buy weapons to distribute to militias fighting against General Nkunda and the Rwandan Army presence in Congo. The 85th Brigade has delivered arms to FDLR/FOCA soldiers in North Kivu, as has Colonel Rugayi's 14th Battalion. Colonel Akilimali, who still works closely with his former Mayi-Mayi soldiers, delivered arms to FDLR/FOCA in December 2007. The arms are arriving in Congo from eastern bloc countries like Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Ukraine after stopping over in an African country.

In August 2007, Shamika Congo Kalehe Sprl, a subsidiary of Montreal-based Shamika Resources located in Goma, received exploration permits for Walikale, Kalehe, Lubutu, Punia, and Idjiwi. The company advertises itself as a strict adherent to ethical and sustainable business practices. However, they were unable to begin exploration in Walikale due to the continued presence of the 85th Brigade. The 85th Brigade denied them access at every turn. In addition, Shamika is being challenged by artisanal miners in Nyabibwe, where Shamika also claims to own legal exploration rights. The workers are concerned their livelihood will eventually be replaced by industrial mining, leaving them without a source of income. Recently, the Ministry of Mines backed the artisanal miners, claiming Shamika does not possess any rights to mine on the land. Shamika's acting General Director, Mr. Robert Nehungu, has stressed that the company is not mining, it is only exploring. A final resolution is still in the works.

The 85th Brigade and its collaborators continue to control access around Bisie and the Kilambo airstrip to this day. They have demonstrated a fierce willingness to retain their control over the area. In March 2008, the Mayi-Mayi Kirikicho militia seized control of the northern half of Hombo. The 85th Brigade quickly moved in and violently forced them out. Meanwhile, employees of MPC were continually denied access to the mining sites and they have been unable to carry out their exploration activities as a result. Fed up with the government's unwillingness to take action against the 85th Brigade, Kivu Resources recently suspended financing for the Bisie project until conditions improve. 

One cannot have a discussion about the cassiterite trade without addressing the role of FDLR/FOCA. 

While the armed wings of the Rally for Unity and Democracy-Urunana (Armée Nationale-Imboneza) and the Rassemblement du Peuple Rwanda (Army of the Rassemblement du Peuple Rwanda [ARPA]-Inkeragutabara), have already largely and voluntarily disarmed, FDLR/FOCA still remain in the bush. They control several areas rich in cassiterite. In North Kivu, FDLR/FOCA mines from the areas around Niabiondo and Kibua. They are also deployed across eastern Walikale Territory, where they are left alone by the 85th Brigade and the FARDC. According to the Goma-based Pole Institute, FDLR/FOCA is mining cassiterite in the Bakano Sector of the Bakonjo Groupement.  

FDLR/FOCA also controls the area west of Kalehe and Kabare up to Hombo, which is a major transit point between North and South Kivu. FDLR/FOCA soldiers work alongside the FARDC in this area, while the 85th Brigade has some elements deployed from Walikale town down to Hombo. These armed factions all operate freely in and around Hombo, taxing and harassing the travelers and traders. In Numbi, mentioned earlier, the FARDC, FDLR/FOCA, and PARECO all currently exploit cassiterite and other ore deposits. Four of the mining pits in Numbi are legally owned by three Tutsi cattle-raisers and one Hutu businessman, all of whom are reportedly financing the CNDP. Two of these sites are confirmed cassiterite mines. Senator Mwangachuchu is reportedly in charge of mining operations in Numbi, and he coordinates the excavation of the cassiterite ore and its transport to the comptoirs. However, some of the comptoirs purchase ore on site similar to Mubi.

In South Kivu, FDLR/FOCA also controls the road from Shabunda town to Bukavu and has an extensive presence consisting of several roadblocks. As described in a recent report by the International Peace Information Service, they tax travelers and traders on the road, particularly between Mzibira and Kigulube. Artisanal miners in Shabunda Territory and Walungu Territory are taxed based on the size of their dig. Some of the miners work collaboratively with FDLR/FOCA soldiers, while others are forced to labor in the mines.  Some of the soldiers prefer to dig themselves. In Shabunda Territory, particularly in Matili, Tshonka, and Lulingu, the FARDC, and FDLR/FOCA work in the mines together. The ore is flown by cargo plane from the airstrip in Tshonka to Bukavu, where it is sold to comptoirs.  Amur, mentioned earlier, is one of the largest buyers in Bukavu. MPC also has a satellite comptoir in Bukavu. FDLR/FOCA soldiers reportedly use some of the profits to buy food, medicine and other supplies from the local markets.

 

What is being done to stem the illicit trade of cassiterite?

Last year, a ban on Antonov aircraft restricted the options available for anyone shipping ore by plane. However, it only hindered the smuggling networks with fewer resources.  In late March 2008, the Provincial Minister of Mines ordered all of the comptoirs located within 500 meters of the Congo-Rwanda border to move inland. In addition, Governor Pakulu had physical barriers installed on some of the open areas of the border to deter smugglers who travel over land. Earlier this week, MONUC began disarmament operations against local militias located in Walikale Territory, while simultaneously sensitizing FDLR/FOCA soldiers in the area to voluntarily disarm.

At an international level, the Federal Government of Germany, led by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, has an ambitious plan to install a certification system for ores imported from Congo and Rwanda. They are reportedly lobbying other G8 nations to institute similar programs in their respective countries. In May of 2008, Republican Senator from Kansas Sam Brownback and Illinois' very own Democratic Senator Dick Durban co-sponsored the "Conflict Coltan and Cassiterite Act," which would require the President of the United States to compile a list of armed factions committing human rights abuses in the Congo and prohibit the import of any coltan or cassiterite from the Congo if any of the identified groups would benefit. They are proposing a certification process as well, but the details of how they plan to implement it are unknown to me at this time. However, the legislative initiative is there. 

A recent UN Panel of Experts report stated that any comptoir who knowingly purchases cassiterite from mines controlled by sanctioned armed groups is violating the UN Arms Embargo on Congo. Global Witness recently helped obtain an official censure from the British Government against Afrimex, a comptoir owned by Mr. Ketan Kotecha that operates in North and South Kivu. Afrimex, which purchases cassiterite from Bakulikira, shipped its ore to Great Britain. The British Government ruled that some of the ore purchased by Afrimex in the past was knowingly bought from the RCD-Goma, which had no state authority to sell the ore. I can say that this censure, though it did not involve any legally enforceable sanctions, contributed to the closure of the comptoir's cassiterite exporting activities due to the public scrutiny it received. 

There is some support from the electronics companies for a certification process, which would allow them to label their products as "conflict-free." However, it is unknown what, if any steps they are willing to take to hold their supply chains accountable. There are other industry initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a publish-what-you-pay program designed to increase transparency in the supply chain. However, these programs do not have any legal enforcement capabilities. They are voluntary, and anyone who violates the principles can only be subjected to public criticism. If utilized properly, initiatives like this can be a useful tool because multi-national firms are quite concerned about receiving negative publicity and the effect it can have on their business. This is why so many multinational corporations spend millions of dollars annually on private public relations firms. 

A report by DanWatch released in May 2008, showed conclusively that it is possible to identify the entire supply chain from the cobalt extractors in the Congo all the way to the mobile phone companies that are the end-purchasers. Given that Nokia has recently announced it would like to drastically expand its Congolese market, this study is even more important. A comprehensive study of this kind conducted on the cassiterite trade could prove to be very useful in stemming the purchase of illicitly mined ore.

There are various programs that encourage the recycling of certain electronics, including mobile phones and computers. The theory is that if enough participate in the programs and consumers stop simply buying a new product to replace an old one, the demand for cassiterite can be reduced on the supply chain. Unfortunately, sensitization programs are scarce as are convenience facilities to drop off the unwanted products. The United States Geological Survey estimated in 2006 that less than 1% of used cell phones were recycled. I can personally testify that some large retail stores actually charge you to have electronics recycled. This acts as a deterrent, especially amongst young consumers, and we can do better.

Finally,

I would like to note some things to watch for in the future. Rwanda recently signed an agreement with the Chinese to build a mobile phone assembly plant. Naturally, to make the phones, they will need copper, tantalum, cobalt, and tin. It is unclear at this time if China will supply these raw materials from their industrial mining concessions in the Congo, or if Rwanda will have to obtain it from traders. 

The comptoirs in Goma are concerned because a new law was passed that will ban the export of all raw cassiterite ore from North and South Kivu beginning in January 2009. This is an initiative very similar to the restrictions placed on copper and cobalt exports in the Katanga Province last year by Governor Moise Katumbi Chapwe. The law is connected to a relicensing program was instituted in April 2007, which nullified all old export licenses and only granted new export licenses to comptoirs that were processing their ore before export. A minimum tin content of 55% will be required in all future exports. This means that many of the comptoirs will have to invest in processing equipment. Given the difficulty obtaining a loan for such an investment, along with a lack of infrastructure to deliver it in a timely fashion, many traders are upset by the new law.   So far, 11 licenses have been reissued for the comptoirs in Goma.

A large export tax hike recently instigated a prolonged strike by the comptoir owners in Goma. Cooperation between the traders association and customs officials has suffered as a result. This may lead to problems in the future, and the higher taxes will encourage smuggling amongst some members of the cassiterite trade community.  

From a more abstract perspective, there is also a great deal of uncertainty in the commodities market for tin. Tin market prices fell 25% in the last 3rd Quarter. The worldwide financial crisis has made it difficult for some companies in the industry to get the loans they need to finance new projects and expand their existing ones. Commodities investment has fallen dramatically, as tin purchasers at the London Metal Exchange have less to spend. However, optimistic market watchers believe that the supply constraints that still exist will buffer the effect of the lower demand, and the lower prices will eventually encourage investors to buy again as soon as market confidence returns.

In closing, if there is ever a focus shift in the trade of so-called "blood minerals" in the Congo, and cassiterite is to be replaced as coltan was in late 2001, wolframite ore will be the most likely candidate. I expect to see Rwanda's wolframite exports continue to increase, while Germany and Austria will be the initial end buyers to watch. However, please keep in mind that the major multinational wolframite ore processors in these two countries also have branches in North America.

Thank you all most sincerely for your kind attention. If there are any questions for Mr. Magala or myself, please feel free to ask them. Thank you once again.