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Why the House must stop the last-second FSGG rider on conflict minerals

Yesterday, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) filed an 11th hour amendment to the financial services appropriations bill to de-fund enforcement of the conflict minerals provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The amendment was adopted by the House Rules Committee and will go to the House floor for a vote today.

Including this last-minute rider would be a serious mistake for both humanitarian and business reasons. It would allow some of the world’s deadliest armed groups to profit from lucrative conflict minerals and halt much of the progress made over the past six years to improve corporate transparency in the tech sector and a range of other industries. The amendment is number 34 in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (the FSGG, or H.R. 5485).

{mosads}Armed conflict in eastern Congo, which since its inception in 1993 has led to at least 5.4 million deaths at last estimate, as well as widespread and brutal gender-based violence, has been fueled by a trade in minerals. Armed groups have controlled mines and trading routes for minerals, and before the bill passed in 2010, armed groups generated an estimated annual $185 million from the trade. A lawless minerals sector in Congo together with foreign demand at the end of opaque global supply chains made it easy and attractive for armed groups to terrorize mining communities and make money in the process.

The conflict minerals provision under attack on the House floor today — Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act — was passed to help combat this deadly trade and support peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It requires companies that use four key minerals in their products to report publicly on their due diligence steps for identifying whether their supply chains benefited armed groups in Congo.

Since the conflict minerals provision passed, there has been a significant reduction in armed group activity in many mining areas in eastern Congo, and unprecedented improvements in the transparency of corporate minerals supply chains. It has helped to bring the majority of tin, tantalum, and tungsten (the “3Ts”) mines to “conflict-free” status in eastern Congo by limiting market access to conflict minerals and also to greater rule of law in Congo’s mining sector. If the armed groups have nowhere to sell to, they will stop mining and taxing minerals, which is what has happened to large extent on the 3T minerals.

In 2010 “almost every mining deposit was controlled by a military group,” according to the UN, but in 2014, 70 percent of 3T mines surveyed were not controlled by armed groups or Congo’s army, according to an independent study by the International Peace Information Service. In addition, since the provision passed, efforts to reduce child labor in mines and improving health and safety for miners have grown. 

Many Congolese communities and leaders support Dodd-Frank 1502. They have experienced its positive impacts and believe in the importance of transparency and rule of law.

“Ten years ago, we were under de facto control of armed groups…” Congolese advocate Justine Masika Bihamba said last year at her home in eastern Congo. “Today, let’s admit we are a long way from that. And if we’re honest, that’s in part because of Dodd-Frank – it came to shine the light on those illicit actors. Today, despite the problems with governance, you can feel more government control.”

Section 1502 has also led to significant improvements for corporate transparency. Spurred by the law, companies like Intel, Apple, HP, and others set up an independent auditing program for the key choke point in their supply chains for minerals: smelters. Today, nearly 70% of the world’s smelters for the four minerals have undergone and passed conflict-free audits (223 smelters in total).

To be sure, the fight against conflict minerals is not over. Conflict gold is still a major hurdle, there need to be more livelihood programs for artisanal miners, and Congo’s government must hold free and fair elections on time to improve governance in the country. But de-funding implementation of Dodd-Frank’s provision on conflict minerals would cause a significant backslide after years of progress toward cleaner supply chains and improved security for many men, women and children in eastern Congo.

Today, Members of the House should vote no on FSGG Amendment 34.

Sasha Lezhnev is the Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, where Holly Dranginis is Senior Policy Analyst. Both have traveled extensively in mining areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.



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