Not an easy job, but a better one

June 1, 2015
Jean-Marie exiting a mining tunnel with ore.

Five days a week at 7 a.m., Jean-Marie arrives at a mining site known as Rwamirambo I, located in Giteranyi village, in the province of Muyinga, Burundi. With a pickaxe and torch, he extracts tungsten in one of the mine’s pits. It’s arduous work, but mining offers a better life for Jean-Marie, his wife, his four children and his younger brother and sister.

The Rwamirambo I mine is part of the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi), a traceability and due diligence system that Pact implements. iTSCi supports more than 78,000 miners across the Great Lakes region of Africa. Because of iTSCi and the work that Pact and its partners do, miners like Jean-Marie work free from violence and earn fair market prices for their production.

Jean-Marie used to work at a different mine, but production there was low. Because his income is based on the weight of the minerals he extracts, he made the decision to move to Rwamirambow I.

“Of course, even here, I don’t have a regular income,” he says. “There are days when the production is high, and others when it isn’t.”

But with a smile on his face, he says his income has doubled since he began working at the new site. He now earns 10,000 Burundian Francs daily, or around $6.00.

Before the traceability system was implemented, minerals from Burundi were exceedingly difficult to trade on the international market. Jean-Marie had to resort to fraud, selling his minerals below market value. Thanks to Pact and its partners, the international market has opened up for miners from Burundi like Jean-Marie.

At his home, Jean-Marie talks about the ways his work at the Rwamirambo I mine has changed his family’s life for the better. The iTSCi system has only been active in Burundi for a year, but already Jean-Marie has been able to buy a piece of land where he and his wife grow corn and beans. He has also made repairs to their home.

He says he feels he is finally meeting his family’s needs. He can afford to send his 7-year old son and 12-year old sister to school, along with all of the materials they need.

Mining is not an easy job but with Pact’s help, it has become a better one for Jean-Marie and his family, as well as thousands of other miners and their families across the region.