In a surprising turn of events, last week, the European Union voted 402 to 118 to pass a law requiring companies to certify to the government that the minerals they source do not fuel violent conflict and human rights abuses, a piece of legislation that parallels –and improves on -- the US Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
Next week marks a significant milestone in the effort to eliminate the brutal conflict minerals trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has funded armed insurgents responsible for mass murder and rape for the past twenty years.June 2 is the deadline for companies to comply with the Dodd-Frank conflict minerals legislation, and file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosing whether the tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold they have purchased have fueled conflict in the region.
If you believe corporate accountability for human rights violations is a good thing, you'll love this news: Industry interest groups looking to tie up the Dodd Frank conflict minerals rule in court lost. This week, a federal court upheld the SEC rule that requires corporations to publicly disclose whether the minerals they source have helped finance armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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 Dodds 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.
Washington, DC: Earthworks and other civil society groups welcomed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval yesterday of its long-delayed rules for Section 1502 (conflict minerals) and Section 1504 (disclosure of payments) of the Dodd-Frank Act.
“The SEC’s rules on conflict minerals and payment disclosure represent a turning point in global efforts to reduce corruption and human rights abuses fuelled by mineral extraction,” said Payal Sampat, International Program Director at Earthworks, a mining and energy industry watchdog group headquartered in Washington, DC. “Although industry groups lobbied hard and succeeded in winning delays and loopholes, the tide has clearly shifted in favor of greater transparency and accountability in the extractive industries. ”
Today Earthworks joined Global Witness, Enough Project, and a group of other organizations calling for electronics companies to break from the US Chamber of Commerce for its stance of conflict minerals. The Chamber continues to pressure decision makers to overturn a key section of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to curb the deadly trade of conflict minerals from eastern Congo. The minerals covered under the 1502 provision of the Dodd-Frank Act are commonplace in most all electronics, and increasingly in the automotive industry.
Recently, electronics giants Microsoft, General Electric, and Motorola Solutions rebuked the Chamber’s opposition of 1502 by announcing they do not support its stance against the conflict mineral provision. These companies have come to realize the role they can play in breaking the link between the global trade in minerals and violence in eastern DRC. It’s time for the rest of the electronics industry to follow suit; not to mention the jewelry and automotive industry that have yet to distance themselves from The Chambers opposition to the conflict mineral rule in the Dodd-Frank Act.
You can read the entire press release after the jump
There are varied definitions for conflict minerals. I usually define conflict minerals as minerals that are mined and used to influence and finance armed conflict, human rights abuses, and violence.
I also like Global Witness’ definition of “conflict resources” as “natural resources whose systematic exploitation and trade in a context of conflict contribute to, benefit from or result in the commission of serious violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law”.
Two years ago this term “conflict minerals” hit the US business community with a thud. See, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act had a small section, section 1502, that mandated companies fully understand their supply-chain and report whether or not they were using conflict minerals - in this case tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold - from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The definition used for this law is a specific one and only looks at conflict associated with minerals in the regions of eastern DRC.