Members of the M23 non-state armed group have continued to expand their territory in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, an important region for global supply of the 3Ts – tin, tantalum, and tungsten.

Since mid-2022, the M23 rebels have controlled areas between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu, a key trade route for minerals, including tin. It is reported that the rebels have blocked the two main roads into Goma, both from the north and the west, halting the transportation of goods into the provincial capital, home to two million people.

Bintou Keita, head of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country, told the UN Security Council last week that 800,000 people have been displaced due to violence since the start of the year and nearly a quarter of DR Congo’s 100 million people are facing food insecurity. Keita added that M23 insurgents now occupy all former positions held by an international force that withdrew at the end of last year, with the M23 occupation reaching “unprecedented levels”.

The Goma customs crossing between DR Congo and Rwanda is a key route for the export of artisanal mine production via the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. Local media reports that a customs crossing between DR Congo and Uganda at Bunagana, a trade route to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, has been closed. Alternative routes from the region to east African ports – such as southwards into Rwanda via Bukavu customs on the southern shore of Lake Kivu, and northwards into Uganda via Goli customs northwest of Lake Albert – are substantially longer and more costly.

Furthermore, eastern DR Congo border crossings have reportedly been operating reduced hours due to the conflict, which poses risk of further delays to concentrate shipments from east Africa to smelters in Asia.

In December 2023, ITSCI, a 3Ts due diligence and traceability programme, suspended mining operations in Masisi territory following M23 rebels taking control of the mineral transport route between Masisi and Goma. Operations remain suspended in the territory.

Alphamin Resources’ Bisie mine, which represented 4.5% of global tin mine production in 2023, is located approximately 180 km west of Goma.

Since the escalation of conflict at the start of 2024, concentrate exports from DR Congo have not seen a significant decline, falling just 5% in January 2023 from the previous month to 21,943 tonnes. More recent trade data is not yet available.

Our view: ITA is not aware of current tin supply disruptions outside of Masisi, but ongoing conflict poses a threat to key supply areas and routes critical to the trade of tin concentrates. Delays may be expected as mineral shipments are rerouted further north and south away from rebel-controlled areas.