A provision on “conflict minerals” that was slipped into a 2010 financial reform law, the Dodd-Frank Act, will help educate American consumers on what is in their smart phones, computers and other electronics and where U.S. electronics manufacturers are getting those rare metals. In the jungles and mountains of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed groups have been wreaking havoc and getting much of their funding from mining rare metals during the area’s 13-year-long civil war.
The minerals provision is intended to deprive the Congo’s warlords of funds by cutting off sales from the mines they control. It focuses on the ores that produce the “three Ts”: tin, tantalum, and tungsten, as well as gold. Public companies that use these metals in their products will be required to investigate their supply chains, determine if they use metals that were mined in the DRC, and disclose their findings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in their annual reports, and on their websites. If its minerals did originate in the DRC, a company must submit a larger report on whether the purchase of these minerals financed or benefited armed groups in that part of Africa. The SEC is expected to issue final rules for implementing the law before the end of the year, and companies are hustling to get ready.