Conflict minerals, saga continuing…

just as UN sanctions merely shifted and did not stop the flow of minerals from Congo, so too the US legislation is unlikely to have any impact on the ground in Congo. Congo is not a major global producer of “The 3 Ts and Gold” that Enough has focused on. According to the USGS, Congo produces approximately 0.6% of the world’s tungsten, 3.8% of the world’s tin, 0.1% of the world’s niobium (columbium), 8.6% of the world’s tantalum, and 0.4% of the world’s gold. Thus, it is easy for the producers of electronics destined for the USA to obtain their “conflict minerals” from other sources. The conflict minerals will continue to flow out Congo at the same rate as they always have, only their destination may change, e.g. to China or India.

That is Dan Fahey guest writing for Texas in Africa. Other than Jason Stearns, where are the impassioned, informed defenses of the conflict minerals ban? Please paste links in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Conflict minerals, saga continuing…

  1. I saw another blogger discuss the issue as part of a portfolio problem for armed groups, which makes sense to me. You and Texas in Africa both pointed this out over the past few days as well. But I think this is misleading, particularly if you dismiss the possibility of small effects just because there are alternative sources of income (protecting cows, selling charcoal and such). It is at least reasonable, I think, to say that for some armed groups minerals are a first best way of earning money (…I dont actually know that, but for the sake of the argument I am standing by it).

    So what’s wrong with making the first best option more difficult? If armed groups are trying to maximize returns on their income strategy, minerals still matter a lot, or they would not be in the portfolio in the first place. With regulation, they now have to factor in higher costs and the potential for future restrictions and so forth, changing the level of income they receive. This sucks for everyone who is involved in the trade locally, and I think there is a strong argument against the restrictions because of loss of income for non-combatants. But that is not the reason you and others brought up the diversity in income issue.

    I suspect that many armed groups in the region are resilient to price and quantity shocks. Fine, this whole thing might not have been worth the effort really. But if only by a little, the move will create more transparency in the trade and make it slightly harder for some groups to make money. I think it is fair to say that there are a belligerent leaders out there who are not pleased about this either.

    As an aside, I do not understand why this is the BIG issue everyone seems to care about about all of a sudden. I have not heard a word about trading restrictions on Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, Lebanon and so forth, even through these are just as questionable (if not more so). There are a lot of conflict-related restrictions and sanctions out there, and these do not seem to me like anything particularly special in the scheme of things.

  2. To nit-pick: It’s not a ban on conflict minerals yet; it’s just an obligation to carry out supply chain due diligence.

    Global Witness, who have conducted a lot of research in the Kivus, has done quite a bit of work to support the legislation:

    The initiall bill was supported by Human Rights Watch, CRS and Oxfam as well:

    More importantly, the bill is in line with the call by people such as the SRSG John Ruggie for greater due diligence in business supply chains in general.

  3. Conflict Minerals on the Blogs: Correcting Misperceptions

    Posted by David Sullivan and Laura Heaton on Aug 06, 2010

    In the two weeks since President Obama signed the conflict minerals bill — a landmark moment after two years of advocacy to press the U.S. government to address the issue — one corner of the blogosphere has been subsumed with posts pointing out the merits and the perceived flaws of the new law.

    Let’s be clear: Congo is a vast country with an intricate history, and the current conflict in the Kivu provinces is among the most complex in the world. There is ample room to debate the relative importance of different drivers of the conflict, and the potential policy levers that might help contribute to peace. We welcome this conversation, in which we have been an active participant, both on the ground in eastern Congo and here in the United States.

    But much of the criticism of our work on conflict minerals implies otherwise, suggesting that activism around the U.S. legislation and the wider campaign portrays the U.S. bill as sufficient to break the links between illicit resource trafficking and violence in Congo, and that breaking that link would be sufficient to end the conflict. This is simply inaccurate.