Enough sent me their response about my blog posting on US legislation on conflict minerals. I apologize for the delay in posting it and I stand corrected on the auditing mechanism the House bill proposes. Nonetheless, I think my comment that the bill relies on being able to distinguish conflict from non-conflict minerals at a local level in the DRC, which we are not yet able to do…
Toutefois, merci a ENOUGH pour la reponse:
At Congo Siasa, Jason Stearns highlights the push for U.S. legislation to tackle the problem of conflict minerals in eastern Congo. Jason rightly notes that this level of congressional enthusiasm for the Congo is unprecedented, and is already beginning to influence thinking elsewhere around the world, particularly in European capitals. He also questions the efficacy of legislation that seeks to impose accountability on the supply chain for Congolese minerals starting at the international level and working backwards to the mines themselves.
There are a couple of specific provisions within the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (H.R. 4128) worth clarifying in response to Jason’s concerns. At the core of this bill is a set of audit and import declaration requirements that have been carefully calibrated to function as part of a wider policy push to cut off the flow of financing from the minerals trade to armed groups and military units in eastern Congo. These requirements are targeted, with the audits specifically aimed at the smelting and refining facilities where mineral ores are transformed into metals. Thanks to the investigations conducted by Jason and the rest of the experts tasked by the UN to look at this issue, we know that even refining facilities based in East Asia have much more knowledge and control over the mineral supply chain than previously understood. The audit and import declaration mechanism is also sequenced: the bill would prohibit the import of goods containing minerals that come from non-audited facilities, but this only kicks in two years after the bill is enacted.
These nuances are in the bill are intended to provide practical means to incentivize minerals traders in Congo and around the world to become more accountable so as to maintain their access to international markets, recognizing that this will not happen overnight. The audit system in this bill would crucially depend upon a strong, independent monitoring body based in Congo with the authority and capability to crack down on the illicit trade, just as Jason recommends. In response to increasing pressure, industry insiders from Congolese comptoirs all the way to Asian smelters and U.S. electronics companies have committed themselves to a more transparent and traceable way of doing business. The possibility of U.S. legislation has already invigorated those efforts and the probability that this bill might actually pass should keep that momentum going. Passing a conflict minerals law in the United States won’t solve the problem on its own, but it has a chance to catalyze wider reform efforts that would allow Congolese civilians to meaningfully benefit from these resources.