Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Press Round Up on Conflict Minerals

This post will be updated as new articles appear.

[A few recent articles pinned, then in chronological order]
Photo essay by Robert Carrubba

For the people in the eastern DRC, small-scale gold mining is a key source of income. The workers risk their lives digging for the ore, which passes through many hands before it becomes a gleaming bar of pure gold.

Sara Geenen
Lecturer in Globalisation, International Development and Poverty, University of Antwerp
Second, an indirect effect on health care and child mortality has been documented. Researchers from the United Nations University conclude that the probability of infant deaths near the policy-targeted mines increased by at least 143%. This they attributed to mothers’ reduced access to infant health care.
IRIN: The Inside Story on Emergencies
How advocacy gave Trump ammunition on conflict-free minerals
The law’s impact on reducing conflict, however, is harder to ascertain and dismissed by some as non-existent.
In one article, Gregory Salter, a former member of the UN group of experts and now a consultant, wrote that the “premise that the mineral trade is the root cause of conflict in the DRC, and that stopping this source of funding to militia or [the Congolese armed forces] will ‘end the conflict’… is rarely (outside the loopier side of NGOdom), if ever, claimed.”
Autesserre wrote that an over-emphasis on “conflict minerals” had come at the cost of neglecting other crucial factors.
“Focusing exclusively on [this] cause of violence… diverted attention from other much-needed policy actions in the field, such as resolving land conflict, promoting intercommunity reconciliation, jump-starting economic development, and fighting corruption.”
However, advocacy groups like the Enough Project, Amnesty International, and Global Witness constantly push the link between minerals and conflict and appear reluctant to genuinely accept and address the law’s shortcomings.
“It seems to me that the preponderance of evidence suggests that people’s livelihoods have been affected: a lot of people have become poorer,” an employee of one advocacy group told IRIN. “And yet, I think a lot of campaigners have difficulty accepting that was the case… there’s been a lack of willingness to look the facts in the face.”
This view was echoed by several employees from other advocacy organisations – all of whom preferred to remain anonymous. Some declined on-the-record interviews out of concern for their job prospects.
IRIN: The Inside Story on Emergencies
Who pays the hidden price for Congo’s conflict-free minerals?
An IRIN investigation finds merit in President Trump’s claims that a US law banning conflict minerals is leading to lost livelihoods
Valentin was in trouble. His arms were tied behind his back and he couldn’t move. The sun was beating down in the courtyard of the mining company where he and his friends were being held.
The men had been arrested by mining police for peacefully protesting the low price of the coltan ore they had dug out by hand from deep narrow shafts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Western activists have sought to help end violence in Congo by championing conflict-free mineral policies that aim to stop armed groups profiting from the trade. But thousands of miners like Valentin are paying a heavy price. At his mine, Kisengo, a monopoly on clean coltan has kept prices low, reduced revenues, and driven some miners to trade their wares illegally or move into the illicit artisanal gold sector.
Wall Street Journal
How Dodd-Frank Led to More Mayhem in Africa
A measure to curb violence from conflict minerals has caused militias to simply expand their looting.
Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) famously said at the time that the bill was supposed to “cut off funding to people who kill people.” But new research shows the regulation has had the opposite effect and escalated violence in the eastern Congo.
The Conversation: Wall Street watchdog SEC can’t end violence in Congo
Karen E Woody
Assistant Professor of Business Law and Ethics in the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
The SEC was created to help assure investors that their investments are safe.
Markedly absent from this congressional mandate is any administrative authority or charge to effect international, diplomatic or human rights-oriented goals. By charging the SEC with achieving goals of foreign affairs, as it has with the conflict minerals provision, Congress has doomed the SEC to fail at accomplishing the provision’s stated goals.

[now in chronological order]
Businessweek: A rule aimed at warlords upends African miners.

New York Times: How Congress Devastated the Congo
(The op-ed by yours truly)

The Economist: The conflict mineral campaign has been a disaster for Congolese.

Reuters: US Buyers Shun "Conflict minerals" in Congo's east

The World: Why Chinese Mineral Buyers are Eyeing Congo

Reuters: Conflict Minerals Crackdown Backfiring in Congo--UN
n.b., for a discussion of whether the UN report really said this, see Stearns.

May 02, 2012
Bloomberg News: Congo Clashes Thwart Plans to Export Conflict-Free Minerals

BBC: Rebels make their money from many sources, not just conflict minerals

Reuters: 'Conflict gold' trade continues in face of U.S. law

Reuters: Exclusive: Mineral traders in Rwanda helping fund Congo rebels

Financial Times: Central Africa: The quest for clean hands
A Dodd-Frank act provision on stemming ‘conflict minerals’ trade has failed to rein in Congo militias

Wall Street Journal: Inside Congo's Link in the Gold Chain
"Opportunities for Illicit Gain Only Increased After Conflict Minerals Law"

Associated Press: Officers in Congo benefitting from mineral trade

Politico, "Dodd Frank's Misadventures in the DRC"
"If there is a lesson of 1502, it may be this. It’s relatively easy to source minerals in a warzone and pour them into an international market that demands ever niftier gadgets. But regulating the supply chains of our global economy—without inflicting harm on whole communities by choking off livelihoods in far off lands—is an altogether harder task."

The Guardian, Obama's Conflict Minerals Law has Destroyed Everything, say Congo Miners
"When his father could no longer make enough money from the tin mine, when he could no longer pay for school, Bienfait Kabesha ran off and joined a militia. It offered the promise of loot and food, and soon he was firing an old rifle on the frontlines of Africa’s deadliest conflict. He was 14.

But what makes Kabesha different from countless other child soldiers is this: his path to war involved not just the wrenchingpoverty and violence of eastern Congo but also an obscure measure passed by US lawmakers. Villagers call it Loi Obama – Obama’s law."

Foreign Policy, How Dodd Frank is Failing Congo
"The campaign to stop conflict minerals is supposed to be protecting people’s lives in one of the most fragile parts of Africa. In fact, it seems to be doing the opposite."

11.11.11, Dans les Mines Du Kivu, Contre Les Minerais du Sang
Pour lutter contre ce trafic, des ONG et des parlementaires souhaitent mettre ces minerais sous embargo afin de couper les vivres aux milices et d’en finir avec la guerre. De leur côté, les États-Unis ont déjà légiféré dans ce sens avec l’adoption par le congrès du Dodd-Frank Act. Ainsi, depuis janvier 2012, tout achat de minerais en provenance de la région par des entreprises américaines doit être certifié « propre » et ne plus alimenter les conflits. Si la législation a atteint son but – bloquer les importations frauduleuses –, elle a néanmoins produit des effets collatéraux désastreux pour les populations locales.« Nous ne pouvons qu’être d’accord avec la volonté d’éradiquer ce marché illégal. Mais cette initiative nous a fait beaucoup de tort » réagit Milabyo Basila, de la Fédération des entreprises du Congo. « Faute de certification, le Dodd-Frank Act a créé un embargo de fait sur tous les minerais provenant du Kivu, y compris ceux qui sont exploités légalement, confirme Aimable Muneza, président d’une coopérative de creuseurs artisanaux de la mine de Rubaya, dans la zone du Masisi, au nord-est de Goma. Des milliers de creuseurs artisanaux et toute la filière d’exportation des minerais qui travaillent en toute légalité se retrouvent maintenant sans travail faute de clients. » « Une telle mesure a contribué à rendre la situation intenable pour beaucoup de familles, ajoute Laurent Mikalano, coordinateur de l’ONG Copare. Certaines n’ont plus de revenus fixes depuis des mois. »

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