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NewsNotes, May-June 2010
Vol. 35 No. 3

 

DRC: Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009

The following article is from Amnesty International USA.

The Conflict Minerals Trade Act (HR 4128), introduced by Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) in November 2009, seeks to improve transparency and reduce the trade in conflict minerals coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to promote the larger policy goal of supporting peace and security in the DRC.

The DRC is rich in natural resources, including large deposits of columbite-tantalite (known as coltan), cassiterite, wolframite and gold, which are used in everyday technology such as cell phones, laptops and digital video recorders and in jewelry. The mines from which these minerals are extracted are most often under the control of armed groups, especially in the volatile eastern part of the country, where conflict has been ongoing for many years despite the presence of MONUC, the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The most recent report of the UN Group of Experts on the DRC found that armed groups in eastern DRC continue to control and profit from the extraction and trade of these minerals. Both the conflict and the mining of minerals itself have led to grave human rights abuses, including sexual violence, child and slave labor and mass displacement.

If enacted into law, HR 4128 would mandate the production of a “Congo Conflict Minerals Map,” which would identify mines currently under the control of armed groups in the DRC. In addition, the bill would mandate the secretaries of State and Commerce to work with interested parties, including commercial entities, to determine best practices to ensure due diligence and documentation on the origin and supply chain of potential conflict minerals. HR 4128 would specifically ensure that the minerals used by companies do not directly finance conflict, result in labor or human rights abuses, or damage the environment. It would mandate the creation of a “Potential Conflict Goods List” and the regular auditing of facilities that are engaged in the trade in minerals from the DRC.

Most importantly, HR 4128 would require that individuals or companies be subject to penalties if found guilty of bringing conflict minerals into the U.S. by fraud, gross negligence or negligence. HR 4128 would greatly advance the goals of regulating and stemming the flow of conflict minerals, thereby limiting the ability of armed groups to benefit from conflict minerals and perpetuate the conflict.

Faith in action:

HR 4128, the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, is currently being considered by key policymakers in the House of Representatives. It should reach the House floor soon. Contact your representative to ask him/her to co-sponsor this important legislation; use information provided in the above article, or check the Amnesty International USA website for a draft letter.

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