Honest Tungsten: From conflict-free to constructing neighborhood

Research present we’re making an affect in Rwanda

Within the north of Rwanda, close to town of Kidao, one of many nation’s oldest tungsten mines is proving us proper.

Fairphone began out as a marketing campaign to show the telephone business may cease utilizing supplies that finance battle and human rights abuses. That we may help conflict-free supplies sourcing. As we speak, we’re excited to be focussing on going “past conflict-free.” We don’t wish to merely certify that we’re not placing cash within the pockets of thugs, however to actually ask whether or not a mine is bettering the lives of its miners, decreasing its environmental affect, and strengthening its neighborhood. We consider that uncooked materials suppliers and purchasers, and each actor in the whole provide chain for contemporary telephones, can wield their buying energy to enhance the well being, security, and dealing situations for tens of millions of miners and their households world wide.


The New Bugarama Mine has been one place we’ve been testing that concept. The mine homeowners, the smelter that buys from them, and Fairphone itself have been cooperating to enhance the mine’s administration and operations. We and our companions had been eager to guage the impacts we had been having, and search for methods to enhance. We’re pleased with two new experiences that we collectively commissioned to independently consider the New Bugarama Mine’s therapy of employees, affect on the setting, and position in the neighborhood.

When Fairphones buzz, they buzz truthful

We use tungsten within the vibration motors of all our Fairphones – it’s the factor that makes them buzz when plugged into energy or to provide you with a warning to incoming messages. Again after we began constructing the Fairphone 2, it will have been simpler to supply conflict-free tungsten from Portugal or the UK. We selected as a substitute to remodel and enhance sourcing from the African Nice Lakes Area, the place genocide and battle had ravished the area. The New Bugarama Mine had been virtually fully destroyed throughout Rwanda’s genocide within the Nineteen Nineties, and had for a while been run illegally as an especially unsafe artisan mine. However in 2009 The New Bugarama Mining Firm (NBM) took over, and got down to enhance a chaotic scenario.

From war-torn and unsafe to award-winning

Once we visited the world in 2014 situations had markedly improved. That yr, NBM was named as one of the best firm when it comes to company social accountability in Rwanda.

We started conversations with smelters and miners and NBM’s foremost shareholder, Specialty Metals Sources (SMR) about sourcing truthful supplies. We partnered with Wolfram Bergbau und Hütten AG (WBH) which in April 2015 efficiently handed the audit of the Battle-Free Smelter Program. Each companions invested closely in security tools, infrastructure, and coaching. They transitioned the mine from fully guide labor, introducing mechanizations that had a direct affect on total productiveness and common revenue per miner. This additionally meant NBM now had a sustainable revenue to put money into persevering with well being, security, infrastructure and different enhancements. They put audit techniques in place to ensure no monetary “leakage” to armed teams.

Past conflict-free

Levin Sources, an impartial social enterprise consultancy, visited the mine in 2021 to evaluate the impacts of NBM’s transition from a totally manual-labor Artisan small mine to a semi-mechanized mine web site. Their findings are contained in two experiences, Case Examine: Learnings From the New Bugarama Mining Firm’s Progress Journey and the Past Battle-free Tungsten report.


Levin Sources discovered advantages that transcend making certain the mine web site is conflict-free. They embody enhancements in working situations and well being and security, decreased environmental air pollution, improved training {and professional} improvement, native added worth and socio-economic contribution, and neighborhood and stakeholder engagement. In different phrases, efforts to interact in enhancements are making a optimistic affect. It’s what we name truthful: when communities which are offering uncooked supplies to make our telephones tangibly share in the advantages.

NBM has been bettering basic working situations by offering formal contracts and reimbursing well being care prices and constructing safer tunnels. They’ve additionally made directed efforts to handle gender equality on the mine, supporting the presence of girls in technical roles and offering a nursery to accommodate breastfeeding. The presence of girls in technical roles was additionally reported by communities as having a optimistic affect on women from surrounding villages, as they see ladies working on the mine in additional specialised roles.

Investments in water recycling techniques, waste administration, tree planting, and changing diesel turbines with grid-powered ones have decreased adverse environmental impacts and emissions. Contributions to training each within the mine — particularly within the space of well being and security — and contributions to neighborhood training had been famous. Most miners’ youngsters now attend faculty usually, and miners can afford books and charges. The report additionally discovered that the corporate is hiring regionally, so spending goes again into the neighborhood. NBM can also be nurturing relationships with native authorities, constructing partnerships and creating channels for stakeholders to boost issues and make suggestions.

The report additionally noticed some areas the place issues may very well be higher. As an illustration, miners may very well be higher knowledgeable about potential ailments and well being dangers corresponding to diabetes, hypertension, non-transmissible ailments and sexually transmitted
ailments. Administration ought to proceed efforts to emphasise the significance of private safety tools. And whereas miners are studying new abilities by means of the corporate’s coaching programmes, the acquired abilities are usually not at all times formally acknowledged.

Consistent with our Honest Sourcing Coverage’s precept of steady enchancment, NBM and undertaking companions will take these into consideration. We additionally intention for extra common monitoring of the mine’s affect to make sure an correct overview of enchancment, advantages, and adverse impacts alike.

Conclusion: small is gorgeous

Collectively, the report and case examine inform us that we will ship important environmental and social advantages to war-torn areas and communities by investing in artisanal small mines (ASM).


As we level out in our “Honest Supplies 101” sequence, many corporations gained’t purchase from ASM on account of fears of being related to battle and unfair practices. However by not investing in these small-scale mines, which make use of many tens of millions extra individuals than large-scale mines, we will push them even additional away from environmental and social accountability. Prioritising engagement over exclusion methods builds belief, improves lives, and strengthens communities. It might encourage downstream purchasers to put money into authentic and accountable mines. And with the form of recurring affect monitoring that NBM and WBH are contemplating, the business can deliver new transparency to the availability chain, and use it to make actual and lasting enhancements in additional mines world wide.

Tungsten purchasers must cease boycotting traditionally conflict-impacted communities and small mines, or wanting no additional than conflict-free certification. Really optimistic impacts require commitments throughout the availability chain — from the bottom up. That’s what we name truthful sourcing.

At Fairphone, we take care to make sure that the cash we pay for the thrill in your pocket goes again to the communities that assist make it. We invite extra in our business to do the identical. In the end, that’s solely truthful.


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