This is a voluntary program in which an independent third party assesses a smelter’s procurement activities and determines if the smelter demonstrated that all the materials they processed originated from conflict-free sources. This provides a mechanism for legitimate minerals trade originating in the DRC and adjoining countries and gives a way for companies to ensure a conflict-free supply chain.
In June they announced the first three gold refiners had been found compliant with the conflict-free smelter requirements. This is in addition to the first compliant tin smelter and the first compliant tantalum smelter processing materials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), both announced in May.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been coming under growing pressure recently to implement the conflict mineral provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.
This pressure has come from non-governmental organisations like Global Witness and The Enough Project who have highlighted the role of minerals in fuelling the conflict Congo. In addition, some technology companies, like Microsoft and Motoral Solutions who have been proactive on conflict minerals, have publicly split from the US Chamber of Commerce’s negative lobbying on the regulations (despite being members of it). Then, last week members of US Congress wrote to the regulator’s head urging her to explain the delay. And now the SEC has announced they will vote on the conflict minerals regulations on 22nd August.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are still wrestling with how to implement new regulations that require companies to disclose whether they use conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Dodd Frank Act passed in 2010 included this conflict mineral legislation but it still has not been implemented by the SEC. The US Chamber of Commerce has been arguing that it would be too costly and difficult to implemented as drafted, whilst conflict mineral campaigners argue that any dilution would let companies off the hook. The SEC now looks set to give companies a phase in period to implement the regulations.
Nonetheless the prospect of the regulations already seems to be having some impact on the ground in Congo with Global Witness reporting last year that one of the largest mines had been abandoned by the military potentially as a result of the legislation.
Nokia has signed a deal to ensure that it uses tantalum from conflict-free sources. It has joined the Solutions for Hope initiative which aims to source validated conflict-free tantalum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Intel has taken a big step forward by publicly stating its aim to make “the world’s first verified, conflict-free microprocessor by 2013.” Whilst other companies have programmes in place to clean up their supply chains, no one has gone this far in making a commitment to make a conflict free product. This really throws down the challenge to other manufacturers.
Interestingly their video is presented by the COO and includes an engineer who was flown out to Congo (ie not just corporate responsibility reps), suggesting how seriously they are taking this.
Bill Gates is supporting the implementation of US regulations that require companies to disclose the payments they make to foreign governments for access to oil, gas and minerals. This is complementary to the regulations the SEC are drawing up to require companies to report what they are doing to avoid conflict minerals entering their supply chains.