Bisie is a tin deposit in the Walikale territory, province of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), although the name has also been used to include the nearby village of Manoire. It used to be an illegal source of an estimated 15,000 tons of tin, or 4% of global production. At the present time, artisanal activity has been suspended, and Alphamin Resources Corp., a Mauritius-based exploration company, is leading an exploration program on the site.
Bisie was established following the discovery of cassiterite by a hunter, which led to a frenzy. Following the Second Congo War, the Mai Mai - allied militia in the area was to form the 85th brigade of the national army and receive training and evenly deployed throughout the DRC. The militia refused, and under the leadership of Colonel Samy Matumo, the production and transport of tin, and the economy of Bisie, and the nearby Manoire village, was largely controlled by the renegade militia. It is estimated that production of tin was as high as $100 million a yearm, and that the militia extorted $300–600,000 a month in illegal taxation on everything from transport into the mine, to mud huts ($50 a month), and sales taxes ($20 a week from small peddlers).
Tin was mined by hand through open cast mining, and put in bags that weigh in excess of 110 pounds, and dropped off at a central location, where it was transported on foot by individuals for over 30 miles, typically over 2 days. From there it was driven to the village of Kilambo, where it was transported via Soviet-style cargo planes to Goma, where it was sold to international dealers, such as Malaysia Smelting Corporation. The militia controlled the entire area, only allowing people who pay their taxes. While Mining and Processing Congo (MPC), a consortium of British and South African investors, bought rights in 2006, the militia thwarted any attempt by them to arrive in the area, having in the past shot and injured people who came to the area in association with the company. After being forced to evacuate, MPC applied for Force Majeure, which was granted on 26 March 2009.
The mine was intimately tied to world markets, as in October 2008, prices of tin increased 37% at the end of the month with news of fighting in the region. According to some watching the conflict, the fact that a transition was not being made from the militia to a legal form of production indicated corruption at the regional and federal levels of the DRC.
In March 2009, the 85th FARDC Brigade was replaced by the 1st Brigade of ex-CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple) members; this was then renamed the 212th Brigade in September 2009.
On the 9th September 2010, President Kabila imposed an outright ban on all mining activities in Walikale territory. Two days later, he suspended all exploitation and export of minerals from North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema Provinces.
The ban on exploitation and export of minerals, together with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as well as pressure from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), drove the buyers of cassiterite concentrate to buy lower volumes at lower prices. The Dodd-Frank legislation requires US-listed companies sourcing conflict minerals from the DRC and adjoining countries, to implement due diligence measures. This served as a catalyst for other international and regional initiatives aimed at increasing accountability of companies sourcing minerals from the eastern DRC and the wider region. The main buyers of cassiterite in the area, i.e. the Malaysian Smelting Corporation, various Chinese companies and Eurotrade International, completely boycotted Bisie material, which due to its pink-red colour is easily identifiable.
Production and trade slowed during President Kabila’s ban, but did not cease completely. Wimmer and Hilgert (2011) presented a set of satellite images which show evidence of continued artisanal mining at Bisie. They estimated that the actual mining area expanded by 0.74 ha during the period of the ban. The ban on mining and exports was lifted on 10 March 2011.
By late May 2011, the DRC army completed its withdrawal from the Bisie tin mine. In August 2011, Alphamin Resources, a Canada-based company, closed its acquisition of a 70% interest in the Bisie Tin Project, and acquired the remaining 30% of the project in July 2012.
In 2012, the number of artisanal miners present on site had declined sharply, due in great part to the increasing tunnel depth needed to reach the ore. The Force Majeure was lifted at the Bisie Project in February 2012, and Alphamin Resources established a camp on the Bisie ridge and commenced exploration drilling in July 2012.
Artisanal mining activities have been continuing on a smaller scale alongside Alphamin's exploration campaign. However, following the destruction of Alphamin's camp by members of the artisanal cooperatives on 16 July 2014, the cooperative's activities have been suspended on the site. Alphamin Resources rebuilt their camp and recommenced their exploration campaign in September 2014.
- The Spoils: Congo's Riches, Looted by Renegade Troops. New York Times. Nov 15, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/world/africa/16congo.html?ref=africa
- ANALYSIS-Tin price spike shows Congo's growing origin role. Reuters. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LU661455.htm
- Wimmer S. Z. & Hilgert P. (2011), IPIS (International Peace Information Services) Bisie. A one-year snapshot of the DRC's principal cassiterite mine, http://ipisresearch.be/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/20111128__Bisie_FHilgert_SZingg.pdf
- DR Congo bans mining in eastern Provinces. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-11269360
- MSA Group (2014), Bisie Tin Project NI-43-101 Technical Report, http://alphaminresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Alphamin-Bisie-Tin-Project-NI-43-101-Report-Jan-2014.pdf?4737e9
- Alphamin Resources (2012), http://alphaminresources.com/alphamin-closes-acquisition-of-a-70-interest-in-the-bisie-tin-project-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-and-concurement-5-million-convertible-note-financing/
- Marketwired News Release, http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/alphamin-announces-acquisition-final-30-bisie-tin-project-democratic-republic-congo-tsx-venture-afm-1683136.htm
- Alphamin Resources (2012), http://alphaminresources.com/drilling-commences-on-the-bisie-tin-project-north-kivu-province-drc/
- Pole Institute (2014), http://www.pole-institute.org/news/suspension-des-activit%C3%A9s-des-coop%C3%A9ratives-mini%C3%A8res-%C3%A0-bisie-au-nord-kivu
- Alphamin Resources (2014), http://alphaminresources.com/alphamin-recommences-drilling-100-owned-bisie-tin-project-drc/
- Polgreen, Lydia (2008-11-16). "A rush for tin, a catastrophe for the Congo". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
- The Incredible Story of Conflict Mineral Mining in Images; Treehugger.com 
- Conflict mineral exploitation at Bisie, D.R. Congo, photography by Mark Craemer, 2008 
- The Congo's tin soldiers, Wells J. (2011); Thestar.com 
- Nicholas Garrett; Sylvia Sergiou; Koen Vlassenroot, 'Negotiated Peace for Extortion: the case of Walikale territory in Eastern DR Congo,' Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol. 3, issue 1, 2009