AVX, a manufacturer of passive components and interconnect solutions and a co-founder of the Solutions for Hope program — an integrated civil and supply chain initiative to source conflict-free tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — has proven that conflict-free doesn’t have to mean Congo-free. After nearly four years, two Solutions for Hope pilot programs, each comprised of multiple mines, have successfully injected more than 165 metric tons of verified conflict-free coltan into the supply chain and enabled several significant social improvements in local mining communities, effectively proving that it is possible to reliably and responsibly source conflict-free tantalum from the DRC. Now that the pilots have been demonstrated credible, effective, sustainable, and expandable, Solutions for Hope partners — including AVX, Motorola Solutions, RESOLVE, other participating companies, and various national, international, civil, and industry trade organisations — are expanding the scale, scope, and geographical reach of the platform to increase the global supply of conflict-free minerals (such as tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold) responsibly sourced from high risk areas.
Established in 2011, Solutions for Hope makes it possible for downstream companies to securely, transparently, and responsibly source conflict-free minerals from regions affected by armed conflict, while also facilitating community reinvestment and enabling the development of peaceful communities with appropriate infrastructure, fair wages, and job security. The core of the Solutions for Hope platform is its closed-pipe supply chain model. This model consists of rigorously approved and validated conflict-free mine owners, artisanal miner cooperatives, smelters, component manufacturers, and product manufacturers all engaged in a pre-defined chain of custody. To mitigate risks and ensure full traceability in accordance with Section 1502 of the US Dodd-Frank Act, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure requirements, and pending European Union policies, mines are validated conflict-free by a multi-stakeholder group consisting of members from the United Nations (UN), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), iTSCi, the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), and the DRC. Additionally, mines comprising the two pilots were also validated to conform to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines by an independent consultant to the United Nations (UN) Group of Experts. Smelters are validated by the third-party conflict-free audit system, the Conflict-Free Smelter Program, and measures including process and quality assurance are validated by the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI), the OECD, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and AVX. Mineral samples are regularly taken at the mines, points of export, warehouses, and smelters; and, as a result, more than 165 metric tons of verified conflict-free tantalum derived from coltan sourced in the DRC has successfully been injected into the supply chain since the beginning of the program.
The first Solutions for Hope pilot program was established in the DRC’s Katanga Province in 2011. Since its supply chain does not typically include traders, AVX pays world market mineral prices directly to mine owners who — by working in conjunction with civil, government, and multinational organisations like the OECD, USAID, and UN as part of their commitment to the program — have enacted fundamental changes in their surrounding communities in just a few years. This aid-through-trade approach has resulted in significant socioeconomic improvements in the mining communities of Katanga Province. One of the most impactful improvements is an assortment of new and improved roads and bridges that have diminished travel time between towns and cities, aided in the integration and unification of communities, and even reduced the inflated cost of goods due to quicker, easier, and more reliable transport. Other consequential improvements include: solar streetlights that enhance safety, the first-time electrification of several towns, multiple water purification projects, new schools, new healthcare clinics, new and improved market spaces to support entrepreneurial ventures, and the funding of youth sports and development programs and public spaces like the Lubumbashi Zoo and botanical garden.
The second pilot program, Solutions for Hope North Kivu, was established in Bibatama in March 2014, just four months after the UN Intervention Brigade engaged and destroyed the infamous M23 guerillas who had mired much of the province in violent conflict, political unrest, and financial and social ruin. Rich in mineral wealth, North Kivu’s mines have been impacted by armed conflict since 1994. Today, though—just eight months after the program’s initiation in this region— 60% of the region’s 28 tantalum mines have been validated as conflict-free, 12 local mining companies have joined the program, 11 mines have begun bagging and tagging verified conflict-free coltan for export, and, before year’s end, the first two full container loads (each containing approximately 22 to 24 metric tons of coltan) will be ready to ship to validated conflict-free smelters for processing into capacitor-grade powder and wire before being made into capacitors for use in electronic products.
Currently comprised of more than 21 electronics and other partner companies, including: AVX, Bosch, FairPhone, Flextronics, Foxconn, HP, Intel, Motorola Solutions, Nokia, and Research in Motion, Solutions for Hope participation continues to increase in accordance with its growing achievements. The commercial and social success of the Solutions for Hope tantalum pilot programs — and especially the nascent, but burgeoning success of the second due to all of the security, infrastructure, and communications challenges it adeptly surmounted— have sufficiently proven that conflict-free does not have to mean Congo-free. Consequently, stakeholders are now actively engaged in expanding the scale, scope, and geographical reach of the program to establish it as a global platform. The Solutions for Hope expansion will foster opportunities to build upon existing models and an ever-improving store of knowledge and experience, increase the global supply of conflict-free minerals, and facilitate meaningful development in post-conflict regions of the world.