Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) welcome the long-awaited announcement of regulations that require companies to report whether they obtain any of four minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and what they do to track the source and chain of custody of those minerals. These regulations are essential for protecting innocent civilians from violent militias funded by illicit mining operations.
The Congo Conflict Minerals Act (Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2010. The rules implementing this section were supposed to be published by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in April 2011 but have been delayed until now largely due to opposition from some in the industry.
Upon initial review, CRS and USCCB are very disappointed that it appears that the regulations will allow companies to describe the origin of their minerals as ‘undeterminable’ for up to four years, depending on their size, but are very pleased that the important step of issuing the regulations has been taken.
“We are still reviewing the details of these complex regulations and may raise concerns about specific aspects, but remain optimistic that moving forward with their implementation will help to address the brutal war raging in the eastern DRC,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ vice president for advocacy and government relations.
The deadliest conflict since World War II, this war has been funded and fueled by the trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, four minerals commonly used in products such as cell phones, laptop computers and jewelry. Since 1998, the violence in the eastern DRC has left millions of people dead and countless others victims of an epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence. Child labor and modern forms of slavery are also prevalent in the mines.
CRS and USCCB echo the sentiments expressed by the Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola, Bishop of the Diocese of Tshumbe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Congo in May, 2012 congressional testimony: “The people of the Congo saw [Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act] as a true expression of solidarity with the women, families and villages who have suffered at the hands of those who destroy our communities to mine our resources. Improvements in transparency of the minerals trade in the Eastern Congo are happening largely because of the legislation that you passed in these hallowed halls. It is our hope that the rules that the SEC will establish will live up to the laudable goals of this provision in the Dodd-Frank Act.”