As an individual and as well as CEO, I wholeheartedly support the ban on mineral trading that finances violence in Africa. Tantalum is one of those minerals and KEMET is one of the world’s largest users of tantalum, so I like to think our support can make a difference.
A lot of the tantalum used in our industry has come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, Congo has been the scene of continued fighting between rival factions for years. Many of these groups have been stealing Congo’s natural resources, including tantalum, and terribly abusing human rights in the process. Many companies completely stopped buying tantalum from Congo as a result. A perfectly understandable reaction, but it has hurt innocent Congolese people who depend on tantalum mining for their livelihood.
At KEMET, we decided to take a different approach. We call it the Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability – a positive, integrated, social and economic solution that prevents exploitation. Our goal was to have a totally conflict-free tantalum supply chain from the mine all the way to the finished capacitor.
The key to the partnership was finding a conflict-free source of ore from the Congo region, so we took our idea to the conflict-free province of Katanga and looked for a mining partner there. We chose Mineral Mining Resources (MMR); because, it not only had government concessions for mining in that area, it had a good and successful history there, too.
In the mining village of Kisengo, people were excited. The partnership meant jobs and economic progress for them and a stable supply of tantalum for our company, along with the entire capacitance industry. According to our unique agreement, the mine is managed by a cooperative that has worked to reduce the risk of injuries among the miners and shares profits with them every day. As part of the sustainability partnership, KEMET committed $1.5 million for social programs; including a school, hospital, fresh water wells and street lighting. We also established a local foundation (Kisengo Foundation) under the local leadership of Ms. Safina Abdul Razak, an MMR employee, to make sure the money is best spent to benefit village residents.
Tangible benefits of the Foundation work are almost priceless. The new hospital is now open and is operated in conjunction with John Wood and UpRight Africa. It has provided medical services to over 900 patients. An interesting anecdotal data point shared with me on a recent visit to the hospital is that cholera in the village has been nearly eradicated. Also, the new school is currently providing education to over 1,800 students. The hospital addresses current needs and the school is an investment in the village future. Moving forward, a portion of mine profits will be used to continue and expand these programs.
Now, we have the industry’s first, closed-pipe, conflict-free supply chain for tantalum – the most comprehensive program of its kind. Perhaps more importantly, we’ve created a better, sustainable situation for everyone in our supply chain. Now, that’s a real win-win!