The Democratic Republic of the Congo has long been home to conflict over control of mineral-rich areas. Each year, armed groups and military units earn millions of dollars through the trade of conflict minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold—which finance their campaigns of violence. Many of these armed groups deliberately commit rapes and severe human rights abuses to intimidate and control local populations.
Efforts to end the current conflict minerals trade have gained momentum, but a new Enough Project report, “Certification: The Path to Conflict-Free Minerals from Congo,” and accompanying activist brief stress the need for a robust international certification system that would economically disincentivize maintaining a mining sector infiltrated by armed groups.
Report authors Sasha Lezhnev and David Sullivan offer five key lessons learned from other industry certifications processes, such as fair labor and blood diamonds, which should be heeded in a certification scheme for conflict minerals. They wrote:
The momentum for such a process is building amid increasing demands by consumer, Congolese civil society, Congress, and electronics companies. The United States, as home to the largest end-user companies of conflict minerals and as a powerful diplomatic actor in the Great Lakes region, now has a choice whether to exercise leadership and help transform the current process into real certification or to step back and allow traders to exploit loopholes and develop new means of circumventing the law to bring tainted minerals to market.
In the report’s introduction, inspired by recent trips to Africa’s Great Lakes region, Enough Co-founder John Prendergast calls for the U.S. to take the lead as “conductor” to bring together the key actors and streamline efforts to establish a system to trace, audit, and certify minerals. To complement the report, Prendergast recorded this video from a mine in North Kivu in which he explains the value of building an international certification scheme for Congo’s minerals:
To urge the Obama administration to fully take on this leadership role in building an international certification scheme, please sign and share this petition: Secretary Clinton, We Need a Credible Certification System for Congo’s Minerals