The conflict-free movement is gaining momentum worldwide, with the newest development happening in Canada. In March 2013, New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar introduced a comprehensive conflict-free mineral bill to the Canadian Parliament. Bill C-486 requires companies to regularly report how they obtain their supply of minerals such as gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum from Central Africa, particularly Congo.
“The conflict minerals that end up in many products like cell phones and game consoles are responsible for funding and fuelling a war that has killed more than 5 million people in the Congo,” Dewar stated after introducing the bill. “I was in the Congo four years ago at Easter. I know that the Congo seems as far away from Canada as you can be, but we have the power here in Canada to cut off the funds that sustain this devastating war.”
These minerals are essential parts of consumer electronics, and the minerals trade is extremely lucrative for armed groups operating in eastern Congo. The proposed legislation provides mechanisms and guidelines for companies to follow, ensuring that the minerals they source have not funded armed groups.
With the passage of this legislation, Canada will become the second country after the U.S. to adopt such measures – hopefully with the European Union not far behind. Canadian public support is imperative for Members of Parliament to decide to adopt conflict-free minerals legislation on a national level. Student groups in Canada such as STAND and the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative have been working to raise the profile of this issue and garner public support.
In the U.S., city-wide conflict-free legislation has now been passed in Pittsburgh, PA, St. Petersburg, FL, and Edina, MN. Section 1502 in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act has also helped bring about increased corporate transparency of the supply chains of companies that source minerals. The European Union is pursuing ways to adopt similar legislation to demand due diligence from European companies.
By raising our voices, we can demonstrate widespread political will to help bring an end to the trade that is financing the deadliest conflict the world has seen since WWII. The Enough Project applauds MP Dewar and encourages Canadian supporters to sign the Conflict Minerals Act petition. As more countries consider taking similar steps, we can continue to create a demand for conflict-free products and increase corporate transparency to help bring peace to eastern Congo.
Photo: Gold traders weigh gold at mines on small scales, but miners earn very little from the trade and work in horrendous, unregulated conditions. (Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project)