Maryland's conflict minerals legislation faced no opposition at a hearing before the State Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee last week, clearing the path for the next step in the legislative process. The bill was also considered by the House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee on February 15, and again passed through the hearing without opposition. Next step: consideration by the Senate and House subcommittees before a full vote by each chamber.
If passed, the legislation would restrict Maryland state contracts with companies that fail to comply with federal conflict mineral regulations under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. It will provide further incentive for companies to invest in clean supply chains in the region.
The bill also sends a strong signal that the leaders and people of Maryland are concerned about their connection to the conflict in eastern Congo and committed to using their leverage through state funds to enact change. Governor Martin O’Malley has signaled his support of the bill, as have the Legislative Black Caucus and several other organizations.
Marie-Rose Sirikari, president, founder, and CEO of the African Women Council, testified at the Senate hearing, describing why she supports the bill:
I am from eastern Congo and lived in both the Katanga and North-Kivu provinces. Throughout my childhood in Katanga, I experienced firsthand how the minerals trade can be a source of stability and development. Upon moving to North-Kivu… I experienced how the minerals trade is destroying communities and fueling wars.
Sirikari went on to describe how the mining company for which her father worked set up schools, health clinics, and even a girl and boy scouts program for youth. She said she believes that mining can benefit communities and be a source of legitimate livelihoods, but has instead the eastern region has suffered as warlords wreak havoc and compete to control natural resources and populations.
Cleaning up the minerals trade in eastern Congo so that it supports community development rather than funds armed groups is but one of the reforms needed to take hold in Congo for lasting peace. But it is a issue on which the State of Maryland can wield enormous leverage because of the connection between the electronics products used by the state and Congo’s minerals trade. The Enough Project commends Senator Montgomery and Delegate Shane Robinson for introduction of this bill and congratulates them on the bill’s passage through the first committee hearings.
If the bill becomes law, Maryland will become the second state in the country after California to pass conflict minerals legislation for Congo. Several cities and universities around the country have adopted similar statements articulating their commitment to a conflict-free mining industry in Congo.
Photo: Maryland State House (Maryland State Archives)