The Trump Directive suspending the rules on conflict minerals

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The Congolese warlords and the US non-ethical companies will be among the first beneficiaries of the application of the measures by which the president Donald Trump wants to enforce the revision of the Wall Street reform, known as the Dodd-Frank Act.

The law, promoted by the Obama administration in 2010, was enacted to protect consumers and to prevent a repetition of an event like the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007, but for the new occupant of the White House is just an unnecessary drag for the US economic revival.

Between the folds of the Dodd-Frank Act it is also Section 1502, which under the supervision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provides for the adoption of detailed rules. The law forces US companies to make public, on an annual and more corresponding statement all the trades and businesses related minerals such as coltan, gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, which are the basis of many conflicts in the democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region.

The legislation also requires the completion of monitoring activities on respect for human rights at the US companies factories and those of suppliers of raw materials.

Previous appeals and reassessments

However, in 2015, that regulation is the subject of appeals and reassessments to propose the repeal, after having been questioned several times by members of the US Congress, that agree would violate the First Amendment, therefore unconstitutional.

In addition, critics argue that the introduction of the rule has produced a significant increase in unemployment in the Congo, since a large number of small mines have closed because of falling demand.

Certainly, the two-year suspension of Section 1502, proposed by US President Trump on the basis of alleged threat to national security (stratagem that has not hesitated to use for applying the so-called “Muslim ban”), is likely to take any form of control to origin of the minerals mined in war zones.

The interruption would undermine years of efforts to achieve the identification of resources and prevent end-consumers of smartphones, tablets, personal computers, jewellery and other widespread products, to finance abuses and conflicts, without their knowledge.

While the European Union, on 16 June 2016, approved a text that introduces the traceability mandatory for European companies that use minerals from areas affected by war, providing information on all measures taken to trace them.

The provision introduced by the EU, however, has stirred open dissent within civil society organizations, which have defined the agreement partial because it concerns only the importers of ores and those companies (smelters and refineries) who carry out the initial processing.

Despite this, the legislative measure testifies that the Brussels approach to the painful question is based on very different parameters than those adopted so far by the Trump Administration.

The NGO’s fears

The main organizations involved in the protection of human rights are deeply concerned about the possible suspension of the legislation on the control of minerals of conflict.

Amnesty International has branded as shameful the proposal made by the US President, since it would create a heavy setback in the effort to curb the exploitation of the populations where they are the precious minerals extracted.

Global Witness, said that the blockade of the Regulation on conflict minerals would be a real gift for illegal traffickers and the armed gangs who seek to profit from the minerals ‘bloody’, as well as constitute an excellent opportunity for companies that intend to enter business with criminals and corrupt.

Human Rights Watch, said that the armed groups operating in Congo have often using the profits from the sale of minerals to buy weapons and fund their activities, thanks to the complicity willingness of major industries which make huge profits from these conflicts and the illegal market minerals, paid up to 70% less than their market value.

New York-Based Organization cited the case of some mining towns in Ituri district in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where between 2002 and 2004, the warlords fought killing about 2,000 civilians and committing war crimes, rapes and torture.

Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a Ottawa-Based Organization, and with financial support from the Canadian government has long cooperated with the Central African countries to support the establishment of a certification system for minerals, has reported that now the results achieved could be harmed by Trump imminent action.

Without forgetting, that the suspension of the measure will increase the possibility of instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where last December 19 at the expiry of its mandate, President Joseph Kabila has refused to relinquish power, forcing to postpone the elections at the end of this year. So that, the north-eastern provinces of the country, the area of conflict minerals, could be at higher risk of violence at this stage.


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