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Legislation on conflict minerals effective against armed groups in DR Congo

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The US law on conflict minerals has had a dampening effect on the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This according to a report made by the human rights organization the Enough Project. Combined with new industry policies the law has helped drop the profit from armed groups trade with 65 percent.

What are conflict minerals?Eastern DRC holds rich findings of the minerals tin, tantalum, tungsten (known as the 3 Ts) and gold, that are indespensable in the manufacturing of many high tech products, like computers and mobile phones.

 

For many years the DRC government and different armed rebel groups have been fighting over the control of the mines and their wealth.

 

The trade of the minerals has funded the armed groups continuous terror rule in the region, including rape and murder to intimidate civilians.

In 2010 US signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, that included articles meant to hinder American companies from using conflict minerals, originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in their manufacturing. Two years later the Enough Project has done an evaluation of the effects of the law,and presents it in the report From Congress to Congo.

Less armed groups

They found that although there have been delays in the specification of the regulations for the companies – they should have been provided by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in April 2011 but were adopted as late as August 22nd this year – the mere passing of the law has had positive effects. Besides from lowering the armed groups profits, the Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR one of the most violent groups operating in the mining area, has shrunk to a quarter of its size of two years ago. Several armed groups has also pulled out of 3 T mines.

Of course these effects can’t all be referred to the Dodd-Frank legislation – the report also highlights the new requirement from the Congolese government that all mineral export are to be audited and traced to conflict-free mines, as well as industries taking self-regulating measures to stay clear of conflict minerals, as important sources for change.

Job losses and pay cuts

What do the different regulations do?The regulations are being reinforced in an effort to hinder minerals coming from the illegally controlled mines to generate profit to the armed groups – i e to stop the source that’s feeding the ongoing conflict.

 

For instance, the Dodd-Frank legislation forces American companies to report whether or not they are using any minerals originating from DRC or one of its neighbouring countries. And if they are, they must report on the measures they have taken, and that they abide by the appropriate guidelines, for investigating the source and chain of custody of the minerals. Most importantly, companies need to provide independent verification of these steps through an independent private sector audit of their reporting.

There have been a lot of debate surrounding the US law and other regulations. Their opponents claim that they are working against the very people they are trying to protect: the miners and their families. And the report shows that many miners have lost their jobs or had to take severe pay cuts, due to the decrease in saleability of conflict minerals. But at the same time, out of the 143 miners interviewed for the report, a majority expressed a patience to deal with the situation, because of the prospect of getting a mining job with credible health and safety standards and a living environment free of the harassment and abuse that comes from living in a community plagued by the terror of armed groups.

Want European legislation

Still, civil society in DRC points out that there is much more needed to be done, for there to be an end to the ongoing conflict over the minerals.

- We would like to se a European legislation as well, there has to be efficient methods to increase the traceability of minerals. The problem is that DRC has nine bordering countries and since armed groups control the mining areas in DRC, they can just take the minerals across any border and sign them off as coming from that country. So besides legislation, political pressure has to be put on the countries keeping armed groups in DRC, to make them pull out. As long as foreign armed groups are operating on DRC territory, the situation will never be resolved, comments the women and peace organization AFEM (Association des Femmes des Médias) who are active in the South Kivu areas of DRC.

Malin Ekerstedt

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