Alphamin focused on conflict-free tin production
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Alphamin focused on conflict-free tin production

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – TSX-V-listed Alphamin Resources is on track to develop the first large commercial tin mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to produce responsibly mined, conflict-free tin concentrate.

The company is developing the Bisie mine, in the North Kivu province of the DRC, and is expected to reach steady-state production towards the end of 2019 and raise the DRC’s tin exports by 10 000 t/y.

“There is a very strong drive by the end-users of tin, tantalum and tungsten and, more recently, cobalt to push for conflict-free sourcing,” Alphamin CEO Boris Kamstra said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Mining Weekly Online, he said responsible procurement was being driven by the international community and companies are expected to comply with the standards of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, as well as the standards and guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Through these initiatives, the burden of proof falls primarily on supply chain operators and exporters to prove the direct source of tin concentrate that is produced for smelting.

Untraceable material is at risk of not being sold or heavily discounted in the open market.

Kamstra stated that Alphamin had a definitive mine plan that was committed to conflict-free tin production and pointed out that Alphamin had a clear chain of custody from the mine to the smelter, making it easy for an international buyer to ascertain the conflict-free, responsibly-sourced status of concentrate produced by the company.

“The Alphamin operation is the manifestation of what conflict mineral legislation aimed to achieve,” he said.

Alphamin is a member of the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, which is a global end-user grouping of companies that seeks to develop conflict-free certification standards and protocols.

Kamstra highlighted that, owing to the devastating effect the Dodd-Frank Act has had on artisanal miners in the Great Lakes region, a “bag and tag” system has been generated, where a site gets surveyed by government and independent bodies and is validated as conflict-free.

Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which was signed into federal law in the US, in 2010, compels US-based companies to audit their supply chains to ensure they do not use conflict minerals sourced from artisanal mines.

The law’s intent was to weaken militia-controlled artisanal mines in the DRC through directly targeting their mining profits; however, miners in the area say it has plunged miners and their families deeper into poverty.

“Through the ‘bag and tag’ system, people monitor what is produced and it is then bagged and tagged with conflict-free tags, which pass certain check points and are scanned into a system to verify them for the end-user,” Kamstra noted.

He highlighted that this was very labour intensive and tricky to audit all the way back to the source, because there are a plethora of producers who do not have a mine plan.

Kamstra, meanwhile, noted that unlocking the potential of the Bisie mine would produce local and international benefits.

“Future tin supply is globally uncertain as inventories are running low and economically viable tin reserves are being depleted. The International Tin Research Institute has forecast that there is likely to be a global shortfall of tin [from] 2018,” he explained.

Kamstra added that there was a limited number of active industrial-scale tin mines outside of China and Indonesia and that most new projects faced significant technical and financial challenges, in addition to the challenge of obtaining the required permits to build new mines.

“Consumer companies will need to secure future supply. The Bisie tin deposit is one of the largest and most significant tin deposits in the world – providing the ideal foundation [on which to] build a premier tin producer,” he stated.

Alphamin is expected to deliver a significant return to investors. An updated feasibility study has estimated a net present value of $402.2-million and an internal rate of return of 49.1%, based on a $17 300/t tin price.

Also speaking at the briefing, the DRC’s North Kivu Minister of Mines Paluku Kitakya said the country recognised the major challenges facing the region, including inadequate legal and regulatory frameworks, land-locked enclaves, inadequate infrastructure, fraud and contraband and declining exchange rates.

However, he stressed that much was being done to overcome these challenges by working with mining companies.

He noted that the DRC government had created a special committee, comprising 27 government divisions and Ministries, to support the development of the Bisie mine.

 

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online