With Pact’s support, mineral tracing in Burundi goes digital

February 23, 2022
ITSCI Data Manager Cédric Muderhwa trains OBM agents in Bujumbura. Credit: ITSCI.
Since 2014, Pact has been the field implementation partner for ITSCI, a traceability due diligence program for the responsible sourcing of tin, tungsten and tantalum – known as 3T minerals – from central Africa. ITSCI is the only industry initiative with standards independently confirmed to be fully aligned with OECD Due Diligence Guidance on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains. ITSCI is operated at cost by not-for-profit associations, and all revenue is held in trust for sole use for program activities.

On the ground in Burundi, the program’s positive impact is evident. Miners and local communities benefit from the revenue from mining activities, which improves people’s livelihoods. Mining companies that fully implement supply chain risk mitigation procedures developed and overseen by ITSCI are complying with due diligence requirements, and the government has greater visibility and oversight in the 3T mineral sector for the purposes of taxes and royalties. ITSCI continually seeks to improve its systems and, funds permitting, adopt new technologies where relevant and aligned with its objectives for data management and supporting governments in building capacity and improving governance in the 3T mineral sector. One way Pact and partners believed ITSCI in Burundi could be improved was through digitization. Until recently, all of ITSCI’s data collection – pivotal in any traceability program – was done on logbooks. While these paper-based systems are fit-for-purpose in the region and have served ITSCI well, Pact and its partners agreed that going digital could make ITSCI stronger. In 2019, ITSCI began collaborating with the Burundian government to develop a mobile app and supporting operational procedures. ITSCI signed a memorandum of understanding in 2019 with the primary implementing partner in Burundi, namely Office Burundais des Mines et Carrières, or the Office of Mines and Geology (OBM). Despite setbacks in 2020 related to the Covid-19 pandemic, ITSCI and OBM continued working diligently to refine and test the technical, procedural and logistical aspects of the mobile platform until its launch in late 2021.

ITSCI Data Manager Cédric Muderhwa trains OBM agents in Ngozi. Credit: ITSCI.

The mobile app is installed on a ruggedized tablet, which is used to scan bar codes on tags on bags of minerals. The application is user-friendly, with a simple, multilingual interface and has online and offline functionality. It captures production, processing and export data and other information related to 3T trade. Mineral receipts are printed immediately at sites, which facilitates mineral trade. The data is transmitted either in real time or within a few days.

The new electronic system enables OBM to overcome challenges related to delays from aggregating and transmitting data manually. It is also expected to reduce incidents related to the chain of custody – the most common type of ITSCI incident reported in Burundi – and intended to eventually replace paper logbooks.

“Overall, electronic data collection is a new tool to further develop the Burundian government’s capacity in the 3T mining sector and greatly improve data accuracy, transmissivity speeds and reliability as well as work efficiency,” notes Jean Baptiste Sabukwigura, Pact’s team leader in Burundi. “The electronic data collection system in partnership with the Burundian government is a groundbreaking step to improve the local implementation of ITSCI.”

OBM agents and the ITSCI field team have already seen improvements. They report that the electronic data collection is mitigating errors and reducing their overall workload.

“We thank ITSCI for the improvement they are making and for the availability of the budget for the new tool,” OBM’s operations director said in opening a training session on the app in Bujumbura.

ITSCI, in partnership with Pact, is now exploring expanding the app beyond Burundi to other ITSCI countries, such as the DRC, in the near future.