The Congolese mining company leaves the ITSCI certification system above cost


* SMB says the costs are "always higher"

* ITSCI not immediately available for comment

* Rwandan miners also complain about the costs

LONDON, January 7 (Reuters) – Congo's largest coltan miner, a mineral that is the source of metals used in mobile phones, says it is coming out of the ITSCI certification scheme, asserted by major companies as a guarantee that minerals they are exempt from human rights violations

Societe Miniere de Bisunzu (SMB), gave a 30-day notice to conclude its contract with ITSCI, a responsible supply chain initiative, Philippe Stuyck, director of communications at SMB told Reuters, citing the rising costs of regime.

Many other companies in the sector have complained about the initiative for reasons that include costs, but have been reluctant to withdraw due to concerns that they will not be able to sell their minerals without ITSCI certification.

SMB, in a letter to the minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo mine dated December 13 and seen by Reuters, stated that "the Societe Miniere de Bisunzu had no choice but to end its relations with ITSCI", because it could no longer pay "higher and higher costs."

ITSCI did not respond immediately to requests for comments.

Coltan is a mineral that contains niobium and tantalum, used in technology such as cell phones and laptops.

ITSCI was introduced after the 2010 Dodd Frank legislation was drafted in response to the global financial crisis and required US companies to control their supply chains.

The scheme allowed companies to continue using minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring countries Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

The metal bagging and labeling system is designed to ensure that the minerals in question are not linked to conflict, child labor or other human rights violations.

However, many mining companies claim that the costs of the scheme are increasingly expensive.

"The fact that ITSCI does not review tracking costs is a huge burden on us all," said Jean Malic Kalima, president of the Rwanda mining association, to Reuters.

"The only challenge that prevents some Rwandan miners from joining other traceability programs is whether the final buyers are comfortable with them," he said.

Pressure on ITSCI to lower costs has increased while others working in responsible minerals try to use blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin cryptocurrency, to help trace minerals and ensure they are clean.

Kalima said the costs range between $ 130 and $ 180 per tonne, depending on the mineral. (Reporting by Fiston Mahamba in Goma, Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali and Barbara Lewis and Pratima Desai in London Editing by Susan Fenton)

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