Reacting to a misleading editorial by the Wall Street Journal about U.S. efforts to curb the trade in conflict minerals from eastern Congo, Enough Project Executive Director John Bradshaw wrote this letter to the editor, published by the newspaper yesterday:
Conflict Minerals Fund Wars
In response to your July 19 editorial, "Africa and 'Obama's Embargo'": Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank legislation requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enact rules that impose disclosure on publicly traded companies who use "conflict minerals" in manufacturing their products. The legislation has already impeded the ability of armed groups to profit from Congo's mineral trade. A coalition of 40 Congolese human-rights groups have called it "the leverage needed to instill and impose ethical business practices in the Great Lakes region."
Since its passage, the bill has diminished the ability of the Congolese Army to illegally profit from the minerals trade. This has caused rebel groups to retreat from mining communities, while accelerating initiatives to trace and audit the region's minerals.
Despite this progress, the plight of miners must still be addressed. Companies and aid agencies should partner to establish community livelihood funds that would help mitigate the consequences of the transition from war economy to legitimate business in Congo.
Taking away the financial engine for war in eastern Congo—conflict minerals—and providing concrete incentives for a clean minerals business are steps that were previously unimaginable in eastern Congo. It is now time for the SEC to follow up their legislation with timely regulations that do not allow for a lengthy phase-in period, which would negate the progress made to date.
Executive Director, Enough Project
Photo: A miner working in Masisi, North Kivu province (Enough/Laura Heaton)