Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Conflict (Blood ) Minerals

The Guardian reports.

"Eastern Congo's poor left

counting the cost of conflict-free


US legislation on conflict minerals has generated column inches, but is it hurting the very people it was designed to protect?

A miner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a handful of tungsten, a mineral used in mobile phone manufacture. Photograph: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images

There are more mobile phones and other wireless devices in the US than people. Each one probably contains small amounts of tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold. This fact, we're told, ties US consumers directly to villagers in the volatile, resource-rich eastern provinces of theDemocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Our insatiable demand for electronic devices is keeping brutal militia groups in business, goes the now familiar story, and cleaning up the mineral trade is the key to peace. This narrative, simple yet deeply controversial, has provided fodder for newspaper columns and galvanised campus and consumer groups across the US to demand "conflict-free" gadgets. Long-ignored by Washington, it has helped push eastern Congo centre stage."

If only it had pushed the DR Congo to the centre stage. I suspect most in the West couldn't name the countries previous name and couldn't find it on a map.

" In July 2010, a provision (section 1502) was added to the gargantuanDodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, requiring US-listed companies to investigate and disclose whether the tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold used in their products comes from the DRC or a neighbouring country. But now that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has finally released long-overdue rules to implement what is known in eastern Congo as "Obama's law", the story seems anything but simple.
Analysts and observers are still poring over the SEC's 356-page "conflict minerals" rule, and comments continue to trickle out. But don't expect much celebration. Industry groups will continue to groan about the cost and difficulty of conducting detailed investigations of their complex supply-chains. Others have questioned whether it's appropriate to task the US capital markets regulator with humanitarian and foreign policy concerns."

Obama's law is long overdue and it is appropriate that humanitarian concerns are taken into consideration, for fucks sake are we human ?

" The Enough Project and Global Witness, NGOs that led the charge for "conflict minerals" legislation, have issued relatively cheerless reactions. Both take issue, for example, with the SEC's decision to allow companies to describe the origin of their products as "undeterminable" for two to four years, depending on the company's size. Proponents of this "phase-in" period say it's necessary, given the time and effort required to mount such complex inquiries. Advocates say it's unacceptable, given immediate needs."

Undeterminable looks to me to be a cop out.

" Much seems to hinge on the definition of "manufacturing", and on the judgment of SEC regulators as to who and what is covered by the rules. So far, mining companies and some major retailers that simply affix their brands to third-party manufactured goods appear exempt.
The contrast between the emotive campaigning around "conflict minerals" and the unglamorous work ahead is stark: the SEC's rules are only about disclosure. How much capacity will the agency have to review these reports? How involved will campaigners get in the important but tedious task of monitoring disclosures? This is complex stuff, demanding far more than signing a petition or calling a senator.
Still, few seem to doubt the Dodd-Frank regulations will have an impact on the profits armed groups extract from the mineral trade. But will it end the violence, as promised?

Anything that reduces the income of the armed groups is good but at the same time we need to be aware that the militias will look for other revenue streams and the people in the front line need support.
                                                                                 Photo Virunga National Park
" Critics argue that the focus on cleaning up the mineral trade – in itself, a noble aim – has simplified a complex conflict. In a paper published by the Centre for Global Development earlier this year, Laura Seay, professor of political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, argued there is no reason to believe that armed groups won't just find other sources of revenue. The idea that they fight because of minerals, or the money they make selling them, is historically inaccurate, she says. Instead, Seay offers a series of reports that suggest Section 1502 has already put entire Congolese communities out of work as companies look for minerals elsewhere."

Why can't those minerals be extracted legally and under license ? Oh that's right  the minerals support militias who prevent orderly exploitation of said minerals, this is chicken and egg stuff.

" If the "conflict minerals" story has put eastern Congo on the international agenda, it has done so at a significant cost, argues Columbia University professor Séverine Autesserre. In exchange for attention, Autesserre says the issue has diverted attention from other key issues: poverty, corruption, land conflicts, the reform of local institutions. It has hindered the search for a comprehensive solution, she argues, leaving us instead with a series of poorly conceived technical responses.
There's little doubt that those who led the charge for "conflict minerals" legislation understood the complexities of the conflict in eastern Congo and few would argue that foreign firms should, however indirectly, continue to bankroll – and profit from – the activities of militia groups. But was it right to simplify the message and use stories of rape and sexual abuse to push it through?"

Yes. it isn't simplification though, it  is the truth and you might not like the truth but you  never hide from it. Rape sexual abuse AND wholesale massacres. Lives dislocated, families destroyed, do not guild this lilly. 


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