Financial Regulation Bill Contains Measure To Address ‘Conflict Minerals’

Congressional negotiators reached a deal yesterday to reconcile the House and Senate versions of financial regulatory reform. The bill contains an obscure provision “that requires any publicly traded company that uses certain minerals to file reports annually with the Securities and Exchange Commission certifying whether the minerals originated in Congo or neighboring countries.” Many of the minerals used in electronic devices like cell phones and computers are mined in the Congo, a country “plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources.”

The mineral sales finance “multiple armed groups, many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations.” The provision in the financial regulation bill is designed to, according to its sponsor Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), “bring accountability and transparency to the supply chain of minerals used in the manufacturing of many electronic devices.”

The Center for American Progress’ Enough Project helped advocate for the inclusion of this provision. Enough is an organization “helping to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity.” Earlier this week, Enough sat down with Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D-AR) team to alleviate “the Senator’s concern that auditing minerals supply chains will cost too much.” Enough’s Jenny Russell addresses the argument that the provision is too expensive:

Despite tech industry support and strong bi-partisan support of the language and the legislation it’s derived from, manufacturing and retail industry groups are lobbying hard to have it removed. Even though tech companies have admitted it would cost one penny per product to ensure a conflict-free supply chain, lobbyists for manufacturing companies continue to argue that even this penny is too expensive. So this week we have called on activists to stand up against corporate lobbyists – clearly a penny is a very small price to pay to help end a conflict that has already left more than 5 million people dead.

Enough produced the video “Conflict Minerals 101” last year. Watch it:

Reacting to the news, Enough’s John Prendergast said, “A year ago most members of Congress hadn’t even heard of conflict minerals. In the middle of a turbulent legislative calendar, activists all over the country were heard loudly and clearly: We demand conflict-free products and we expect our legislators to do all they can to ensure that.”

Charlie Eisenhood