Conflict minerals

Written by  //  July 24, 2010  //  Africa, Business, Justice & Law, Rights & Social justice, Trade & Tariffs, U.S.  //  Comments Off on Conflict minerals

With thanks to David Kilgour for bringing this to our attention.
This is the first time that we have seen the topic raised in such a complete fashion. Therefore, we are posting an only slightly abridged version, at least for the present. As the world becomes more aware and the media pays more attention, we will add other items, and reduce this long post to a minimum with a link.

More on conflict minerals from the Global Policy Forum
Another view from About Conflict Minerals
The conflict mineral blog is an effort to share the truth behind the historic exploitation of Congo and the role that Western nations continue to play in fomenting conflict, breeding dependency and keeping the Congolese people impoverished.

24 July
U.S. law targets ‘conflict minerals’ in Congo
(CNN) “This is a step in the right direction,” said Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a senior research fellow at Makerere University in neighboring Uganda, who regularly visits Congo. “It protects the interests of the Congolese … a lot of minerals are going to be certified, and the law will do away with fly-by-night businesses and introduce bona fide companies that don’t infringe on the rights of the the people.” Golooba-Mutebi said the United States would have to work with Congolese authorities for the law to be effective.
Human rights groups hope other nations will follow suit. Activists have campaigned against the so-called “conflict minerals” for years, and blame them for funding more than a decade of violence. The war and its aftermath, including hunger and diseases, have killed at least 5 million people and displaced scores. Rebels have used sexual violence as a weapon of war, and raped hundreds of thousands of women and girls.
21 June
U.S. financial reform bill also targets ‘conflict minerals’ from Congo
(WaPost) The financial regulation bill that President Obama will sign into law on Wednesday is supposed to clean up Wall Street. But an obscure passage buried deep in the 2,300-page legislation aims to transform a very different place — eastern Congo, labeled the “rape capital of the world.”
The passage, tucked into the bill’s “Miscellaneous Provisions,” will require thousands of U.S. companies to disclose what steps they are taking to ensure that their products, including laptops, cellphones and medical devices, don’t contain “conflict minerals” from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sale of such minerals has fueled a nearly 15-year war that has been marked by a horrific epidemic of sexual violence.
The issue of “conflict minerals” was barely mentioned during congressional debate on the Wall Street bill. But it has attracted growing concern from an unlikely alliance of conservatives and liberals — from Sen. Sam Brownback ((R-Kan.) to feminist Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues.” Activists hope to ultimately see an international system for curbing the trade, such as the one that has slowed the sale of “blood diamonds” from West Africa.
“This is a law that is going to affect virtually the entire U.S. manufacturing sector,” said Rick Goss, vice president of environment at the Information Technology Industry Council. Congo “conflict minerals” law is the first of its kind in the world, Goss said. European governments are pondering similar steps, even as U.S. officials and industry experts caution that the murky nature of the conflict makes it difficult to trace the minerals.
Congolese activists, U.N. experts and nongovernmental groups have become increasingly concerned that armed Congolese groups are financing themselves with minerals such as gold and the “three T’s” — tin, tungsten and tantalum. The minerals are extracted from remote Congolese mines and smuggled to neighboring countries.
Congo is the source for an estimated one-fifth of the world’s tantalum, as well as smaller percentages of the other three minerals.
The new law requires American companies to submit an annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing whether their products contain gold, tin, tungsten or tantalum from Congo or adjacent countries. If so, they have to describe what measures they are taking to trace the minerals’ origin.
The law does not impose any penalty on companies who report taking no action. But the disclosures must be made publicly on firms’ Web sites.
“The consequence is a market-driven one. Consumers can make their choices. Do they want their electronic products to be funding gang rape in central Africa? I don’t think most Americans would want that,” said Rory Anderson of the World Vision humanitarian group, which has been pushing for the legislation.
U.S. executives say it can be exceedingly difficult to figure out whether there are “conflict minerals” in their products. Such minerals may, for example, be smuggled from Congo through Rwanda, mixed with ore from other countries in a smelter in Kazakhstan and then sold to a company in Southeast Asia that supplies a parts manufacturer in China.
Many firms in the high-tech sector have been trying to ensure their suppliers don’t use “conflict minerals,” jointly running a pilot program at smelters to identify where minerals come from.
Some companies said they welcomed the law. Michael Holston, the general counsel of HP, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer maker, applauded the measure, saying it would “help reduce some of the factors that have contributed to the civil war” in Congo.
Both industry experts and advocates said the law is one step in solving a much larger conflict. [HP Commends Enactment of Conflict Minerals Legislation]
“What really needs to happen is the international community needs to redouble its efforts to bring an overall diplomatic [solution] to what’s going on in Congo,” Goss said.
U.S. shines glare on Congo’s conflict minerals
(Reuters) – A U.S. drive to clean up the trade in Congo’s minerals puts the onus on industry and the central African country to step up efforts to regulate the sector or risk seeing it fall apart.
27 March
The new blood diamonds?
Electronics makers are pressed to stop using ‘conflict minerals’ from mines controlled by armed groups in DR Congo.
(Fortune) — First there were “blood diamonds,” the gems that fueled conflict and human rights abuses in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Then there was “conflict cocoa,” the chocolate source that’s harvested by children and funds civil war in Ivory Coast. Now concern is rising about the minerals that go into common consumer electronics. Could that be a BloodBerry or a Conflict Cell in your pocket?

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