Thanks to the work of activist groups like the Enough Project and the Genocide Intervention Network, the term “conflict minerals” has begun to seep into the vernacular of those of us who follow foreign affairs. Simply put, conflict minerals are the few minerals that are at the heart of the war in Eastern Congo. These minerals — which include Tin ore (cassiterite), tantalite (coltan), tungsten as well as gold— are used in electronic devices such as cell phones, laptops and MP3 players. Profits from the export of these minerals have fueled the deadliest conflict since World War II.
Well, today, U.S. Representative Jim McDermott pledged to do something about it. He will introduce the Minerals Trade Act of 2009, which as Laura Heaton explains, “would help set up a system for auditing mineral ores or their derivatives, ultimately requiring that companies importing products containing these essential minerals declare whether their goods are ‘conflict free.'”
Some of the specific provisions of the House legislation include:
* development of a U.S. government strategy to address conflict minerals;
* support for further investigations by the U.N. Group of Experts;
* mapping of which armed groups control key mines in eastern Congo;
* inclusion of information on the negative impact of mineral exploitation and trade on human rights in Congo in the annual human rights reports;
* guidance for companies to exercise due diligence;
* expanded U.S. efforts to improve conditions and livelihoods for communities in eastern Congo who are dependent upon mining; and,
* review by Government Accountability Office to evaluate adherence and effectiveness of policies
This is clearly a worthy endevor. For our American readers, the Enough Project offers a way in which you can reach out to your member of congress and urge them to support this initiative. In the meantime, here is a quick primer on the issue.
For even more depth, check out this UN Plaza interview I conducted with David Sullivan of the Enough Project, who has conducted extensive research on conflict minerals.