Despite opposition from Washington industry lobbyists, some companies have shown public support for conflict minerals legislation. Last week, the jewelry company Brilliant Earth posted on its Facebook page in strong support of the Dodd-Frank bill. The San Francisco-based jewelry retailer stated that “The new law doesn’t ban the export of Congo’s minerals to the United States; it simply requires more transparency.” Therefore it is up to industries that are involved in mineral sourcing from the Congo, mainly electronics and jewelry companies, to become socially responsible and commit to conflict-free regulations instead of simply moving their business elsewhere.
Brilliant Earth argues that if companies worked collaboratively on this issue, the Dodd-Frank bill can help improve life for artisanal miners—the direct opposite of what critics have claimed.
Instead of questioning the existence of the law, we think that all of those who care about Congo should work together, with much greater urgency, to improve transparency in Congo’s artisanal mining sector. If the minerals produced by Congo’s artisanal miners can become more traceable, artisanal miners will find more buyers for their non-conflict minerals. And perhaps, out of all this change, a different sort of mining sector can emerge in Congo—one that is both free of violence and fairer to Congo’s miners.
Involving Congolese civil society and supporting local mining livelihoods is critical to ending the conflict minerals trade. Brilliant Earth supports the Congolese civil society group CENADEP in an artisanal mining community center project “where diamond diggers are educated about their rights, organize into associations, and negotiate fair prices for their diamonds.”
This concept of peaceful mining with profits that benefit local Congolese communities may seem idealistic, but not impossible. To bring about such change in eastern Congo’s mining industry it will take collaborative dedication, engagement rather than disengagement, and long-term strategic thinking.
Brilliant Earth is the latest company to release a statement in support of conflict minerals legislation and livelihoods. Other companies, such as Motorola and HP, have issued supporting statements in favor of the conflict minerals legislation in 2009 and 2010. Additionally, HP, Dell, AMD, and Ford have joined multi-stakeholder letters in support of strong SEC regulations with the Enough Project and other socially responsible investors.
Photo: Muddy hands of a Congolese miner (Mark Craemer)