Last year, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Buried within the Act is a provision that addresses an ongoing activity at the intersection of business and human rights: the mining of minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Section 1502, or the Conflict Minerals provision, essentially requires publicly traded companies to submit annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing whether their products contain minerals from Congo or adjacent countries. If so, these companies must explain the actions taken to trace the origin of the minerals and whether they come from mines that help fund armed conflict. While the Commission is still working out the rules pertaining to how exactly this gets done, the provision itself has received strong support.
Here’s why such disclosure and due diligence are necessary: armed groups perpetrating the violence finance themselves through trade in four main minerals – tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. These minerals are turned into metals that are then sold on to be used in the very mobile phones and laptops you are using now. If we as consumers knew which products contained the minerals from these mines, we could use our purchasing power as a force for change.