Andrew Hedlund at Arizona State just published a great article in ASU’s State Press about the role of minerals in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and current legislation to address it. Read on to learn more and find out how you can take action.
Financing a calamity with a vibrating cell phone
Monday, November 23, 2009
The Democratic Republic of the Congo houses an incredibly violent and heart-wrenching conflict.
Since 1996, this country has been at war; the principal motivator for the conflict is greed. Tutsi forces from Rwanda, one of the Congo’s neighboring countries, have invaded the Congo with the intent of annihilating the Hutu militias. More than 5.4 million have died and 1 million people have been displaced; countless Congolese women have also been raped as a result of this deadly conflict.
Unfortunately, this conflict is unknown to the majority of the Americans and has resulted in inaction from the international community. It takes sustained resources to carry out a feud for a prolonged period of time, and the perpetrators take money out of our pockets to finance this clash.
Many of the minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are put in electronics that we buy and use on a daily basis.These minerals include tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Raise Hope for Congo, an organization dedicated to protecting Congolese women, specifies what each of these minerals is used for.
Tin serves as a solder in many electronic products like cell phones, while tantalum is used to store in electricity in MP3 players and digital cameras. Tungsten makes cell phones vibrate; jewelry and electronics utilize gold.
Three primary groups profit from the trade of these minerals: the National Congress for the Defence of the People, Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda and rebel corps of the Congolese army. These parties receive $85 million from tin, $8 million from tantalum and $2 million from tungsten annually. Gold can bring in anywhere from $44 million to $88 million a year.
There is current legislation being debated to combat these conflict minerals. A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009. Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., proposed this legislation. A press release from Brownback’s office outlined the enactments.
The principle of this bill is simple; regulations are put in place to help stop the trading of conflict minerals. The State Department will be asked to track the funding of the armed groups participating in this conflict. U.S.-registered companies that manufacture products that utilize conflict minerals will need to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealing the country these minerals were attained from.
The Enough Project, an organization committed to ending genocide, reported on similar legislation introduced in the House of Representatives. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., introduced the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (HR 4128), which was co-sponsored by Congressmen Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Barney Frank, D-Mass. Similar to the Senate legislation, this act calls for companies to disclose whether or not the minerals they used are conflict-free.
Ending the human rights crisis in the Congo does not require a trip to Africa. All it takes is a simple phone call to our elected officials. If the funding for this catastrophe ends, so will the death and destruction that it produces.
To take action now, contact your representative and ask him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 4128.
You can also contact your senator and ask him or her to co-sponsor S. 891 and support the inclusion of an independent audit requirement for companies to make it even stronger. Click here to see if your senator is already a co-sponsor.