|Traceability has played a significant role in numerous product sectors – including food, agricultural and fish/seafood products – in assurance of product safety and quality, material origin and sustainability attributes. Since 2010, traceability has been adopted and implemented in tin, tantalum and tungsten (3T) supply chains to assist in removing conflict-related minerals from global supply chains, and ensuring the conflict-free origin of minerals. However, while factors impacting traceability in other commodity chains are fairly well studied, those impacting traceability in minerals supply chains are unknown. This study aims at understanding the drivers that motivate 3T supply chain actors to participate in the industry supply chain system and the barriers that inhibit traceability in conflict minerals supply chains in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). To achieve these objectives, a grounded theory approach was employed. Primary data were collected using semi-structured interviews with ten key informants holding high ranking positions in various organizations within and outside the physical supply chain. Collected data were analyzed inductively via coding. The study identified three drivers that motivate participation in traceability of 3T minerals in the DRC, with market access being mentioned more often than legal requirement and social pressure. The study found that barriers to traceability of conflict minerals in the DRC are institutional, contextual and people-related. According to the informants, the most significant institutional barriers involve government and the industry traceability system, with the DRC government being the biggest barrier to traceability of 3T minerals due to its weak governance over minerals trade, which is epitomized in the deficient monitoring system of mine sites, trade routes, and trading points, weak legal system and corruption. In addition, among the ten barriers identified, four are unique to conflict minerals traceability, which constitutes the originality of this study. This research contributes to the literature on traceability on two fronts. First, it fills the knowledge gap in commodity traceability literature. Second, this research opens new grounds for research in traceability of minerals. Moreover, this study provides significant recommendations that can be used to improve traceability of 3T minerals in the DRC.
Key Words: traceability, conflict mineral, driver, barrier, opportunity, improvement, 3T minerals, chain of custody.