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Conflict Minerals: Companies May Stop Buying Unless Certification is Sped Up

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Conflict Minerals: Companies May Stop Buying Unless Certification is Sped Up

Posted by Enough Team on November 11, 2013

Enough Project Press Release

Contact: Carine Umuhumuza, [email protected], 202-478-5314

Conflict Minerals: Companies May Stop Buying Unless Certification is Sped Up

NAIROBI, KENYA and WASHINGTON, DC – Critical gaps in the minerals certification process in eastern Congo, Rwanda, and the surrounding region threaten to undo the development of a clean minerals trade in Central Africa, argues a new Enough Project report released today.  Minerals certification, a key component in building a transparent regional minerals trade, faces setbacks that could hinder global market access for minerals extractors, traders, and exporters in the Great Lakes region, unless regional governments implement the process. The report, “Coming Clean: A Proposal for Getting Conflict Minerals Certification Back on Track" is based on recent field research in the region.

Enough Project Field Consultant Aaron Hall, said:

“Certification is the most critical component of the entire conflict-free minerals system. If minerals from the Great Lakes region cannot be certified as conflict-free, then efforts to trace and audit become moot. Without functioning regional audits or an Independent Mineral Chain Auditor, minerals cannot be credibly certified according to regional and international standards."

Tremendous strides have been made in recent years to cut the conflict minerals trade in eastern Congo. In the past four years, governments, nonprofits, and private sector actors in Africa, the U.S., and Europe have built regulatory frameworks and stimulated the global market for responsibly sourced minerals. Additionally, a certification process, under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, was established to ensure that minerals sold and exported from the Great Lakes region do not fund conflicts. Progress on reforming supply chains and demilitarizing mines has addressed many negative elements of the conflict minerals trade, as armed groups are much less present in mines.

Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst Sasha Lezhnev said:

"Minerals can be a boon for peace in Congo and the region, not a conflict curse.  But if Rwanda, Congo, and regional states do not take urgent steps to complete the mineral certification process in the next few months, multinational companies may stop purchasing many minerals from the region that cannot credibly be certified as conflict-free. U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold and the World Bank should work closely with Rwanda and Congo to speed up the certification process, so that the system provides assurances to companies." 

Progress in certifying minerals from the Great Lakes region as conflict-free is at a crossroads. States are starting to issue certificates for easy-to-certify mines using ad hoc measures, but interim steps will not work for all mines. Rwanda issued its first conflict-free certificate on November 6, and Congo plans to begin issuing certificates for mines and exporters soon.

The report explains that the ICGLR governments have not yet fulfilled their commitments to the process designed to ensure transparency and accountability, and these gaps undermine the credibility of the system. The ICGLR certification process requires four components: mine inspection and traceability, a regional mineral tracking database, audits, and independent monitoring. The key components of accountability—auditing and independent monitoring—lack operational mechanisms to ensure that minerals are fully certified.

The report explains that existing "bag and tag" systems, used by tin and tantalum industries sourcing in Rwanda and in some locations in Congo, have been a brave first step but do not provide full conflict-free assurance because of the lack of the independent oversight mechanisms of the ICGLR certification process.  

The report calls on the U.S., E.U., and World Bank to focus energies on helping to complete the ICGLR certification process. These measures include setting a deadline for Rwanda, Congo, and the ICGLR to meet the four components of the certification process and formalizing interim measures to certify minerals to meet international standards. If the Great Lakes states fail to meet these standards, they may be deemed non-compliant with international due diligence standards.

The report also recommends that the World Bank and/or electronics companies should help digitize the traceability system in Congo, so that data is transparent, and that the U.S. and E.U. should urge Rwanda to publish minerals production data as soon as possible.  Finally, the U.S. and E.U. should offer incentives to source fully certified minerals from the region, such as offering a high-level award for companies that help build a clean trade and purchasing clean minerals. 

Read the report, "Coming Clean: A Proposal for Getting Conflict Minerals Certification on Track":


The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more about Enough, go to