Inauguration of Analytical Fingerprint (AFP) Preparation Laboratory
The Rwanda Natural Resources Authority/Geology and Mines Department in Kigali, Rwanda, has inaugurated its new petrographic laboratory for the preparation of Analytical Fingerprint (AFP) samples as well as general geological research. AFP represents an advanced forensic instrument to verify the traceability of minerals along supply chains. The establishment of the laboratory was supported by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in the framework of a German support program to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). In a ceremony taking place on July 26, 2013, the new laboratory was officially opened by the Rwandan Minister of State in charge of Mining, Evode Imena, and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Peter Fahrenholtz.
Bild vergrößern (© BGR) Being one of the major national foreign exchange earners, generating exports of well above 100M USD in 2011 and 2012 each, the mining sector for “3T” minerals – tin, tantalum, and tungsten ores – constitutes an important pillar for the economic development perspectives of Rwanda. At the same time, illegal mining and trading of 3T minerals originating from the neighboring provinces of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has contributed to fuelling a conflict – and the associated human rights abuses – for more than fifteen years. Lack of transparency in mineral supply chains, in particular uncertainty about the true origin of minerals, has caused a general stigmatization of 3T minerals from the Great Lakes region. Recently, this situation also triggered US and (anticipated) EU regulations aiming to restrict international market access for these “conflict minerals”. However, the latter developments also imply a risk for a general embargo of all minerals produced in the region, including minerals produced at legitimate mines, in accordance with international standards on responsible mining practice and providing the livelihood base for tens of thousands of miners and their families.
In a proactive approach, Rwanda, jointly with other affected member states of the ICGLR and in cooperation with international partners, has introduced the concept of mineral certification to manage this challenge. Mineral certification aims to demonstrate supply chain due diligence and responsible mining practice through an integrated system comprising national and independent regional verification processes for all stages of the mineral production and trade. The AFP forensic tool is embedded into this concept: the technology is based on the chemical composition of the minerals themselves, recording a unique signature for each mine. This information is completely independent from any man-made traceability documentation and may hence be applied to verify the integrity of the latter.
AFP is employed in a similar fashion as a DNA test: a reference (“father”) sample of a mineral concentrate is obtained at each production site. Subsequently, spot checks on the associated supply chains may be performed through AFP control sampling, e.g. by an independent auditor. As a result, the credibility of legitimately produced minerals may be enhanced while fraud attempts shall be detected as part of an overarching risk assessment.
Bild vergrößern (© BGR) Rwanda ranks as the first country in the world with regards to quantity and quality of AFP reference sampling: almost 400 national production sites have been sampled over the last four years. The new laboratory in Kigali allows full in-country processing of these samples, prior to their shipment to an external analytical high-tech laboratory, the latter process being coordinated by the AFP Management Unit recently established at the ICGLR secretariat in Bujumbura, Burundi.