12th Rare Earth Summit

May 27-28, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

11th Aluminum Raw Materials Summit

May 20-21, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

9th Magnesium Summit

April 15-16, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

13th World InBiGeGa Forum

March 25-26, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

7th World Antimony Forum

June 13-14, 2019
Changsha, Hunan, China

7th Refractory & Abrasive Materials Summit 2019

May 23-24, 2019
Qingdao, Shandong, China

10th Aluminum Raw Materials Summit

May 16-17, 2019
Zhengzhou, Henan, China

11th Rare Earth Summit

May 9-10, 2019
Qingdao, Shandong, China

8th Magnesium Summit

April 11-12, 2019
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

12th World InBiGeGa Forum

March 14-15, 2019
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

6th World Manganese & Selenium Forum

May 21-22, 2018
Hainan Sanya, China
Kay Nimmo: An introduction to the iTSCi scheme
----Interview with Kay Nimmo, Manager of Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs, ITRI
ITRI, International Tin Research Institute, is a not for profit membership based organisation, representing and supported by the major tin producers, smelters and recyclers. iTSCi, ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative, is a joint initiative that assists upstream companies to conform with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance.

Asian Metal: Good Afternoon and thanks for speaking with Asian Metal. Firstly, I’d like to ask if you could provide us with a brief introduction to ITRI.

Kay Nimmo: ITRI is the global tin industry association funded by major tin producers, smelters and recyclers. The organisation was formed more than 80 years ago which gives both the organisation, as well as its long serving staff, an extensive history in, and understanding of all aspects of the industry. ITRI is the foremost authority on tin with groups responsible for technology, statistical and market information, regulatory affairs and sustainability and provides links between the main tin production and consuming sectors through a substantial network of industry contacts. For example, we research and generate all primary industry statistics on production and use, and also manage sector critical projects such as generating new toxicological data to demonstrate that tin is safe to use.

Asian Metal: Further than that, could you give an overview of iTSCi?

Kay Nimmo: In 2008, ITRI became concerned with reports of possible links between funding of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and trade in tin ore (cassiterite). We formed a working group of interested member companies and suppliers to consider how we could voluntarily and proactively address those concerns which grew into the concept of the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCi) in 2009, and has continued to develop since. We started with a small pilot project for traceability in the DRC in 2010, which has adapted and extended into a formalised iTSCi programme, now including tantalite (tantalum) and wolframite (tungsten) as the ‘3T’s’, and covering not only the DRC but the entire countries of Rwanda and Burundi. ITRI is formally the tin representative to the iTSCi programme Steering Committee and Secretariat of the programme.

Asian Metal: What is the overriding purpose, or goal, of iTSCi and who are its intended users?

Kay Nimmo: Our primary goal is to assist the 3T mineral sector in central Africa to adapt to the expectations of the market, and to avoid links to financing conflict or human rights abuses. We are also keen to support the artisanal mining sector which is very important for the tin industry as a whole, and to ensure that African minerals can continue to supply the international market. At the same time, we recognise the importance of the industry to local communities and their economic development and want those local miners to properly benefit from their own resources. ITRI makes sure that the iTSCi Programme is accessible by all operators in the supply chain, so it is designed to be flexible enough to be beneficial to small and large companies alike. We have over 200 members ranging from mining cooperatives in the DRC, through large international trading companies, to major smelters.

Asian Metal: In short, how is iTSCi implemented? What are the requirements for the mines to be certified?

Kay Nimmo: iTSCi provides local knowledge, information and networks that allow anyone in the supply chain to be confident that the minerals they purchase are not funding conflict. All the companies in the Programme are independently audited and expected to implement the internationally agreed OECD Due Diligence Guidance on sourcing minerals from high risk areas. All the mines and local transport routes within the Programme are independently visited, and monitored for changes in production or presence of armed groups. We provide training to the Government representatives who implement traceability on the ground, and monitor and report on any issues of concern and make sure they are resolved. If all the requirements of traceability and due diligence are in place then the minerals can flow through the supply chain, whereas if, for example, there was illegal control of a mine by any armed groups the traceability system would be stopped and mineral could no longer flow to the market. There are a number of requirements for due diligence including knowing your suppliers, recording data, assessing risks, managing and reducing risks, as well as reporting to customers and the public on the situation and progress.

Asian Metal: How close would you say the scheme is to achieving its ultimate goal?

Kay Nimmo: For tin, ITRI has recently calculated that the iTSCi Programme covers almost all of the cassiterite now coming out of the central African region; https://www.itri.co.uk/index.php?option=com_mtree&task=viewlink&link_id=55233&Itemid=11
In terms of breaking the link between the cassiterite trade and conflict we have therefore almost completed this objective, and although we have not calculated the exact figures for Ta and W, expect the impact to be very similar. On the other hand, the total production of the region is now much less than it has previously been, and our next target is to encourage investment and increased production to maximise the economic benefits returned to the miners of the region.
iTSCi was originally a phased project which, following stabilisation of the conflict free market, would then address wider issues. We are pleased to say that we are now starting to work on individual pilots addressing child labour and health and safety and aim to continue to extend this aspect of the Programme in the future with support from downstream buyers.

Asian Metal: Moving forward, what more do you think could be done to improve accountability and guard against companies ignoring the scheme?

Kay Nimmo: As iTSCi has grown it has become an industry standard and more and more companies continue to join – both internationally and in Africa. While there will always be some percentage of the trade that may not be concerned about conflict issues this is shrinking all the time, as opportunities to sell potentially conflict mineral shrinks, and prices drop, it becomes more and more attractive for everyone to become part of the Programme. The more companies that become iTSCi members themselves, and require their suppliers to be iTSCi members, the faster we can achieve our final objectives.

Asian Metal: What would you say are, if there are any, the main issues in terms of expense or resources that provide the scheme with resistance?

Kay Nimmo: iTSCi is working to ensure that African minerals can access the international market – that means that those minerals must be produced according to international guidance, and for any company with business in the US or with US companies, according to the Dodd frank Act on conflict minerals. There are high levels of expectation for credible, accurate and verified information and data which we must always bear in mind to ensure that the Programme is a success. At the same time, on the ground, we work in some of the most challenging, remote and difficult locations of the world frequently without basic infrastructure such as electricity, roads or phone networks. It is a great challenge to achieve international standards in those environments and the costs are not insignificant as a result. For example, to transmit data we may need to install a satellite internet connection, with power from a generator, run on fuel carried by bicycle to the office, operated at night when the connection is less unreliable. However, the Programme is able to manage this within an affordable cost for the 3T minerals and is a great success.

Asian Metal: Some sources have indicated that there are issues regarding to the time scale of certification, what would ITRI do to counter this?

Kay Nimmo: We are quite surprised by this kind of criticism since there has been a very short time (4 years) to develop and implement a system to manage the conflict concerns of the international buyers without a great deal of assistance from external stakeholders. This is a much shorter time than is typical for development of a certification system and iTSCi is not only a certification/auditing standard, but has around 100 staff providing practical on the ground assistance across a huge area the size of western Europe facing difficult logistical, political and security issues every day. This work has been almost entirely funded by the upstream supply chain of the 3T industry with some support from donor Governments. The only roadblock to expansion of the project is funding which could be easily resolved if those critics are keen for progress to occur at an even faster rate.

Asian Metal: Finally, is there anything else you would like to inform our readers on regarding the current standing of the scheme and its aims in the short term future?

Kay Nimmo: iTSCi is currently planning to extend our coverage to the final mining areas of the DRC that are not yet included. These could be the most productive areas in terms of the 3T minerals, but remain the most challenging; however with all the experience that we have had to date we are confident that we can make this most difficult of activities a success.
We would also really encourage all potential buyers of the African 3T minerals to join in the iTSCi Programme to reduce conflict and bring real benefits to the region in terms of stability and economic development. We can reassure all companies that local Governments and companies are ready and eager to follow expectations and very much welcome new trade and investment.