In 2010, in response to unspeakable atrocities from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congress did a powerful thing: It passed Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act,which requires companies to investigate and disclose whether they source minerals from this region for their products, and whether this sourcing contributed funds to armed groups.
That's it. No ban, no taxes, no additional regulations — just a requirement to disclose.
And yet, industry interest groups have relentlessly fought against this provision, even suing the SEC for implementing the rule. This Monday, the groups sparred with the SEC in a court hearing in the US District Court in DC. Reuters has an analysis here.
In a court brief, Amnesty International explains why the 1502 provision is so important:
“An important source of funding for armed groups in eastern DRC is the minerals trade in cassiterite (tin), columbite-tantalite (tantalum), wolframite (tungsten), and gold. The armed groups control or tax many of the mines producing these minerals and pocket the wealth of the region to support actions that terrorize local communities.”
The 1502 provision “enhances transparency” in the marketplace, and allows Americans concerned with fueling mass violence with their dollars to make better investment decisions.
After hearing three hours of arguments, Reuters reported that Judge Robert Wilkins made a conclusion that highlighted weaknesses in the Chamber of Commerce's legal strategy:
“This is a circumstance where a court should really defer to Congress and the executive in an area of foreign policy where the court has no expertise.”
Though a relatively obscure part of the massive Dodd-Frank Act, the Conflicts Mineral Provision is under close scrutiny around the world. Both Canada and The European Union are proposing similar provisions.
Fortunately, the industry sector is not in consensus on the argument that disclosing conflict mineral sourcing is a violation of their free speech rights. Electronics companies including Microsoft, Genera Electric and Motorola oppose the Chamber of Commerce attempt to quash 1502.