Federal appeals court to reconsider conflict minerals rule

U.S. companies may be required after all to disclose whether their products are manufactured with "conflict minerals" from war-torn parts of Africa, a federal appeals court indicated Tuesday.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in announced it would reconsider its earlier decision to throw out the rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a move that could reinstate the contentious provision.

Under the SEC’s conflict mineral rule, companies would be required to disclose whether their products contain any amount of tantalum tin, gold, or tungsten from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The SEC and human rights organization Amnesty International petitioned the court to reconsider its earlier decision, arguing that consumers have a right to know where their products are coming from.

But industry groups led by the National Association of Manufacturers argue the rule violates companies' free speech rights by forcing them to say negative things about their products.

The appeals court sided with the manufacturers in April, but its decision to rehear the case could signal movement in another direction, just months later.

No date has been set yet for the rehearing at the appeals court.

The rule, originally part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, is aimed at stemming violence between warlords battling for control of the DRC valuable mineral supply. The SEC hopes that reducing demand for the minerals in the Central African nation will limit the violence there.

The SEC estimates the conflict mineral rule would apply to some 6,000 businesses and cost industry between $3 billion and $4 billion to comply with initially, and between $207 million and $609 million each year after that.