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Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act yesterday with some important provisions for the effort to clean up mining. This includes provisions we pushed that should help allow consumers to know if their gold jewelry is tainted with human rights violations and atrocities in the Congo basin.

The bill requires mining, oil, and gas companies to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) what they are paying foreign governments. So mining companies might hesitate a little more before paying off officials for access to concessions or for deals that don’t give many benefits for the public and the communities near a proposed mine.

The bill also requires companies reporting to the SEC and selling products with gold (or tin, tungsten, or tantalum) to do the following:

  • report to the SEC annually if those minerals they use came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and
  • report to the SEC, if any of those metals did come from the Congo basin, on an audit and other measures to establish if products are “DRC conflict free” or must be described as “not DRC conflict free.”

I’m thinking people don’t want to buy jewelry that they know is “not DRC conflict free,” i.e. “Blood Gold.”

So companies now need to figure out if they get their gold from the Congo Basin, and this should help bring some needed transparency for the whole jewelry sector. Responsible operators already want to be able to report that they do not use “Blood Gold,” and this legislation should give them an additional tool to do that.

The SEC has 270 days to get regulations on this up and going, and companies don’t have to report until the financial year following that. For the sake of the people suffering from armed attacks and atrocities in the DRC, I certainly hope the SEC acts sooner rather than later.