Government of Netherlands Special Envoy on Natural Resources visits Pact in Goma

July 10, 2017
Dirk Jan Koch and Jolien Van Ooijen observing the WORTH for miners module while visiting DRC.

On June 7, Pact’s office in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, received a delegation from the Government of the Netherlands. The Special Envoy for Natural Resources of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dirk Jan Koch, accompanied by Hans Raadschilders, Maarten Heetderks, and Jolien Van Ooijen, visited activities implemented by the Scaling Up iTSCi in the Great Lakes Region project (Scaling Up iTSCi for short), financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (MFA).

“We are so grateful for MFA’s support of our work, said Yves Bawa, Pact Regional Coordinator for the iTSCi program. "Five years ago, no one believed that conflict-free minerals could be exported from Walikale, that local monitoring committees could meet and discuss freely about challenges in the mining sector and be able to find their own solutions, making sure that no armed group benefits from the production and trade of minerals. There is still much to do, but a lot has been accomplished already.”

During their visit, the delegation met with WORTH for Miners groups in Rubaya, North Kivu. Pact’s signature WORTH program, which provides literacy and financial training to groups around the world, was adapted for the mining sector and tailored for the needs of miners and their communities. The WORTH for Miners program was implemented as part of the economic capacity strengthening component of the Scaling Up iTSCi project and provides key information and tools for miners in a way that it is easy for them to use to start a savings group, access credit to buy improved tools to optimize their work in the mine, and/or learn how to manage seed capital to generate more income or set up a small business. 

Maarten Heetderks observing minerals from Luwowo mine site.

The mixed group of 50 members presented their activities and experiences in the group to the delegation, including their literacy lessons they recently received.

The MFA has always been supportive of traceability and due diligence efforts in Africa's Great Lakes Region. In 2012, when a de facto embargo on minerals from Eastern Congo had taken hold, the MFA created the Conflict-Free Tin Initiative (CFTI). Joining efforts with industry partners throughout the supply chain from the mine to end-users in the electronics industry, including exporters, international traders, and smelters, CFTI ensured there was a market for the minerals being produced. CFTI managed to demonstrate that conflict-free sourcing from Eastern Congo was possible.

After CFTI came to a close, MFA aspired to do more than conflict-free sourcing and funded Pact to implement an extension of iTSCi’s program scope from 2015 to 2017. This extension has allowed the program to reach areas such as Walikale in North Kivu and Shabunda in South Kivu, that had been known for conflict but where entire communities depend on mining for their livelihoods. Besides extending the iTSCi program into new areas, the MFA also sought to expand iTSCi activities beyond conflict and tackle social issues that mining communities face daily, including safety in the mines and poverty. For the last two years, and thanks to MFA funding, Pact has worked for minerals not only to be conflict-free, but for miners to be able to work in a safer and more secure environment, as well as gain lasting benefits from their hard work in the mines. 

Miners working at the Luwowo mine site in Rubaya, North Kiva.

The delegation went on to discuss Occupational Health and Safety trainings recently given to miners with participants working in the mine of Luwowo in Rubaya. Agents from state services such as SAESSCAM, the government agency dedicated to overseeing and improving artisanal and small-scale mining in the country, also spoke with the delegation about their tasks at mine sites. SAESSCAM agents are responsible for tagging the minerals with iTSCi mine tags and for recording the data on iTSCi log books or by using electronic devices.

"I was encouraged that miners were now working more safely than three years ago and making a better living. This is what we mean by beyond traceability" said Special Envoy Dirk Jan Koch.