US, Industry Reps. Discuss Congo Minerals

By Norman Miwambo

Representatives from the consumer electronics, automotive, jewellery and manufacturing industries met Friday, May 14, to explore ways how their supply chain in the vast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) do not involve bloodshed.

The Department of State with Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero together with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, all discussed steps that can be taken to ensure that their supply chains do not contain conflict minerals that have fuelled the ongoing conflict in the eastern DR Congo.

“This is an important conversation. We are working towards the common goal of ending the use of conflict minerals from the DRC,” Under Secretary Hormats said.

DR Congo has been overwhelming bloodshed and terrorism due to secretive occupation and expansion by countries to its the east for nearly a decade now. Last December, the United Nations' report listed Malaysia Smelting Corp. And Thailand Smelting & Refining Co., a unit of Amalgamated Melt Corp. of the United Kingdom as participants in the operation. The December UN report also blamed Uganda, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates for running a trading network of smuggled gold and other minerals from the fragile eastern part of Congo.

Although, the country has precious mineral, the Congolese have gained little instead, the minerals have been catalyst for much of the conflict that has left million dead.

According to several reports, much of the gold from the eastern Congo is smuggled through Uganda which has turn out to be a major exporter of the valuable minerals.

Minerals like tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold are used in a range of industries, including electronics, jewelry and automotive. Armed groups and military units in eastern DRC have used debt, coercion and physical violence to force villagers to extract these minerals from local mines. Proceeds from the illicit sale and trade of these metals are used to perpetuate the cycle of conflict, human trafficking physical and sexual violence and human rights abuses.

“We wanted to hear about the work that end-user industries are doing on due diligence. While there is much to do, we were pleased to hear about the efforts of the electronics industry to address supply chains,” said Under Secretary Otero.

In his keynote, Assistant Secretary Carson said that: “resolving the conflict in the Great Lakes area and bringing peace and stability to the DRC is a top State Department priority.”

A representative of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) stated, “Together, the EICC and GeSI will continue to develop a systematic approach to keep our supply chains free of conflict minerals and support legitimate sourcing from the DRC. We were encouraged to learn about diplomatic efforts to address the conflict minerals issue.”

Friday meeting was part of a larger process initiated by the Department of State and other agencies to support multilateral due diligence guidelines that reduce illicit exploitation of natural resources and promote legitimate and responsible sourcing from the DRC, emphasize the importance of transparency by the private sector with respect to minerals, and work with all regional and international partners to deter trade in conflict minerals.