Digging for Coltan in the DRC. Photo by Mike Ramsdell 

Mike Brand

Mike is Director of Advocacy and Programs at Jewish World Watch.

The Guardian reported on Feb. 8 that President Trump is expected to sign a memorandum that would suspend Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the conflict minerals provision established in 2010 to break the link between minerals and mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Conflict minerals are minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold (3TG), which are used in all of our everyday electronics—cell phones, TVs, computers, tablets and more. A large portion of these minerals are mined or sourced from the DRC. Historically the income from the minerals has been used by various armed groups operating in the region that terrorize the local population through violence, intimidation, and mass rape.

Since 2010, the conflict minerals rule has helped reduce violence in the region by limiting U.S. corporations’ support of armed actors. I have previously written that the conflict minerals law is the “bare minimum requirement that could be placed on U.S. companies. It requires only that companies publicly disclose where their minerals are coming from. The mandate is comparable to requiring the meatpacking industry to disclose where their cows are from.” But now, President Trump appears to be planning to suspend this minimal requirement, and undo all the progress that has been made once again allowing warlords and corrupt government officials to freely exploit and harm the Congolese people.

The leaked memorandum obtained by the Guardian suggests that President Trump as soon as this week could order the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to suspend the rule for as long as two years. It is within the President’s authority to suspend the rule if he believes doing so is in the national security interest of the United States. Yet, there is zero national security benefit in suspending the conflict minerals rule. In fact, suspending the rule may actually threaten U.S. national security interests.

A young soldier in the DRC. Photo by Mike Ramsdell.

If the rule is lifted, it is highly likely that armed groups will once again take control of artisanal mines in eastern DRC, strengthening their ability to commit atrocities in the region. As armed groups gain more funds, they will be able to purchase lethal weapons, increasing their ability to carry out mass atrocities against the Congolese people. Additionally, armed groups will once again begin to exploit children, women, and men through forced labor.

Suspending the rule now would also increase instability and insecurity in the DRC at a time when a tenuous political situation is already destabilizing the country. The fragile peace deal from late 2016 that mandates President Joseph Kabila step down from power after elections at the end of 2017, allowing for the first peaceful transfer of power in Congo’s history, does not need any other reasons to fail. Suspending the conflict minerals legislation now would likely threaten the success of the peace deal. At this crucial time, the U.S. government should be strengthening its position of power with Congolese authorities, not weakening it. Suspending the Conflict Minerals provision would dramatically limit U.S. leverage in the DRC.

Jewish World Watch has been funding programs to rehabilitate children who used to be child laborers in the Kalimbi tin mine by sending them to school and paying for their school supplies. Suspension or reversal of the conflict minerals provision would be disastrous for these children and many more like them.

We submitted a public statement to the SEC in support of the conflict minerals provision, Section 1502 of Dodd-Frank. We told the SEC what one of our Congolese partners told us about the conflict minerals rule: “Reversing the conflict minerals ruling means sending Congolese children and pregnant women to be exploited and used by armed forces in the mining sites. We have seen results of the ruling on the children who used to be subjected to forced labor, who are now happy with a new hope and vision for their future. They are now given a chance to be enrolled in school. Defunding or repealing the ruling is to jeopardize and destroy the future of Congolese children.”

Electronic industry leaders including Intel and Apple have been leading the way in showing that it is not only possible to source minerals responsibly, it is in their interest, and in the interest of the Congolese people, to do so. Other corporations are lobbying hard for all transparency and anti-corruption measures to be lifted by the Trump administration. The example set by Intel and Apple shows that conflict minerals due diligence reporting is possible and does not place an undue burden on companies. And the testimony from Congolese living near mining areas shows that the rule has had a positive impact in the region.

Corporate lobbyists cannot be allowed to dictate the future for the Congolese people.

Call the White House today and tell President Trump that he must not sign the memorandum suspending Section 1502 of Dodd-Frank.

Take Action!

Call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 and ask to speak to someone about the SEC conflict minerals rule affecting the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Or visit the White House’s contact page and send a comment. If you send a message, feel free to copy text from this post and other language from our website.

Talking Points:

  • I am very concerned about the leaked Presidential Memorandum that would suspend Section 1502 of Dodd-Frank, the Conflict Minerals Rule.
  • Section 1502 of Dodd-Frank has begun to curb some of the violence that has plagued the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a conflict that has caused more deaths than any conflict since World War II.
  • I urge the President to reconsider suspending this important ruling requiring U.S. companies to disclose where their minerals are being sourced, and whether the minerals are inadvertently helping to fuel violence and mass atrocities in Congo.

 

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