Chris Twigge-Molecey

Distinguished Lecturer 2013-14

In recognition of his extensive knowledge of the metallurgical industry and the mining community, and of his significant contributions and commitment to CIM.

Presentation Topic: Conflict minerals: What are they and why should we care?

Conflict Minerals are a poorly understood part of our business that could soon have profound effects on us all. The concept evolved from the civil war in Angola during the 70s and the 80s when the arms trade was largely financed by diamond sales. Over the last three decades, civil wars in Africa have in part been financed by sales of an ever-expanding list of minerals.

To try and eliminate this, the developed countries instituted the multilateral Kimberly Process. This is a “bag and tag” scheme with full trial-of-custody provisions. The diamonds are tracked from miner to consumer, allowing the retailer to choose to sell only non-conflict diamonds.

Also, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is now in force. To comply, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has released regulations under which listed U.S. companies must disclose if their products contain “Conflict Minerals.” These are defined as Cassiterite (tin), Columbite-Tantalite, Wolframite (tungsten) and their derivatives, and gold, coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and adjoining countries.

The U.S. and global electronics industries are already responding to this trial-of-custody challenge. Further, the Responsible Jewelry Council and the World Gold Council have both released guidelines on how to comply with their own “conflict-free” standards for diamonds, platinum and gold.

The key evolving issue is how this will affect the mining industry and what the costs and unintended consequences will be.

Q&A: Chris Twigge-Molecey shines spotlight on conflict minerals

By Dinah Zeldin

CIM: Why have you chosen this time to speak about conflict minerals?

Twigge-Molecey: The regulations under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act were promulgated last fall. To comply with Section 1502 of the act, any companies listed on the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission must disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals, which are defined as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), or from any adjoining country. This is all new. Companies have to do their due diligence on the whole supply chain to ensure the claim that minerals are conflict-free is valid. There is no penalty for selling products made with conflict minerals, but there is a penalty for making false disclosure statements. At the end, whether or not products with conflict minerals are purchased is really between the retailer and the consumer – it is a matter of conscience.

Consequently there are now a few different certifications and trial procedures for determining and certifying whether or not a mineral coming from a conflict zone is conflict free, and more groups are beginning to get involved. Because there are so many different certifications being developed, not many people in the mining and processing industries understand what is going on.

CIM: Who are main groups involved, and what do the certifications entail?

Twigge-Molecey: The oldest certification system for conflict minerals is the Kimberley Process, which is a certification for diamonds that has been around for 10 years (however diamonds are not part of the Dodd-Frank legislation). Diamonds are tracked from miner to consumer though a “bag and tag scheme,” meaning when a mine is certified as conflict-free, each bag of diamonds it produces is issued a certificate. The bag of diamonds is tagged with the certificate’s number, and the sealed bag and a series of certificates travel together to the cutter or wholesaler. The process allows the retailer to choose to sell only non-conflict diamonds.

The World Gold Council, the Responsible Jewellery Council, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other groups have released guidelines on how to comply with due diligence requirements and with conflict-free standards.

CIM: When it comes to these regulations and guidelines, what should the mining industry be aware of and do to prepare?

Twigge-Molecey: Mining, trading, transportation and processing companies will all need to understand and respond to their clients’ need for documentation by allowing due diligence on their supply chains. Companies also need to be aware of the various initiatives that are being put into place. For example, OECD has developed a set of due diligence guidelines that are not specific only to the DRC and the nine adjoining countries, but can be applied globally.

Central to most of the activities is the Conflict-Free Smelter program, developed by the International Tin Research Institute (ITI) and supported by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and many other industry groups. ITI has already been certifying smelters by determining if they have procedures in place that ensure suppliers and products are conflict-free.

Miners in the region will soon be expected to comply, but there is not yet a single set of procedures to follow. A lot of procedures are still evolving and being tested but will eventually settle down into an established process.

The Dodd-Frank legislation is clear about what has to be done, but it leaves how they do it up to the companies, which is an intelligent approach. One of the commonalities of all industry approaches is to piggyback on existing management systems as much as possible. Companies can use existing metallurgical accounting, security, financial and personnel systems to generate reports that can be used to prove supply chain due diligence.

This means that if you run a mine and have the solid accounting and mass balance systems that you should have, you will not have to do much more to comply; it will just be a matter of reporting the same information differently. Overall, the major miners are probably in pretty good shape but they have to get their documentation in order. Currently over 450 mines in Rwanda are compliant and it is estimated that about 50 per cent of the tantalum produced by the DRC is also compliant. So progress is being made.

CIM: In your abstract, you mention that there will be some “unintended consequences” for the industry. What will those be? Can and should they be avoided?

Twigge-Molecey: Between the announcement of the Dodd-Frank Act two years ago and the promulgation of the rules last year there has been great uncertainty as there were no regulations on how to determine if the minerals from the region were conflict-free. Consequently buyers of the 3Ts (tin, tantalum and tungsten) have just bought their materials elsewhere. The direct consequence was that an estimated two million Congolese miners lost their jobs. This caused a tremendous upset to the local economy and widespread hardship.

Hopefully, those miners will be able to get back to work once there are procedures to monitor the supply chain in place.

CIM: How do you see these developments impacting the future of those mining jurisdictions?

Twigge-Molecey: They will force industry to be more organized. If we have more artisanal miners forming co-ops and small companies to issue certification it is a good thing. It will help combat another major issue in the region: corruption. If we can clean up the conflict mineral issue, a side benefit will be getting a handle on issues around corruption in the region’s mineral industry.

The success and usefulness of the whole exercise comes back to us as consumers. If we insist that the products we buy are free of conflict minerals then the systems can actually work. If we don’t care and don’t keep pressure on the supply chain for all products, the systems cannot work and the minerals will continue to support civil disruptions in the DRC.


Chris Twigge-Molecey holds a degree in mechanical sciences from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in fluid mechanics from the University of Toronto. He joined Hatch in 1971 and has held a wide range of both technical and management positions. His technical contributions include: the implementation of technology development programs, management of R&D programs, as well as design and commissioning of a full scale metallurgical plant. He has authored and presented over 40 publications, holds four patents and has edited four books. Twigge-Molecey is a past-president of CIM, as well as a past-president of The Metallurgical Society. He is also a recipient of the Mineral Economics Award from the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum Engineers, a director of the Canada-China Business Council, a director of the Canadian Mining Innovation Council, and a member of the Canadian Government Clean Mining Initiative advisory board.

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