RSN’s Minerals program promotes systems that ensure the responsible mining of minerals from point of extraction through to the melting down of ore.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world, with sizeable deposits of tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold (often referred to as 3TG) in its eastern region. Unfortunately, according to the United Nations, warring armed groups in eastern DRC demand a large amount of taxes, bribes or other payments for these extracted minerals. Minerals supporting violations against international laws which are extracted from conflict zones are referred to as conflict minerals. The majority of the Congolese 3TG conflict minerals are smuggled to the neighboring countries of Rwanda and Burundi, and ultimately find their way through complex supply chains into finished consumer and industrial products. This revenue provides armed groups with a robust funding source, hinders peace efforts, and indirectly supports rape, sexual violence, torture, forced labor, and the use of child soldiers.
The link between revenue generation from minerals and the purchase of weapons and exploitation of people is strong and has been well documented. We aim to sever this link to help bring peace and stability to the region and ensure the products we are consuming are not contributing to the egregious violations happening in the Congo.
RSN operates within a broad network of NGOs, companies, investors, and industry associations seeking to end revenue generation from conflict minerals that help fuel the ongoing war. Solutions require minerals value chains that are transparent, traceable and accountable. Fortunately, Conflict Minerals Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act requires publicly-traded companies to submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) annual reports describing the steps they are taking to implement due diligence and if the conflict minerals in their products are contributing to the Congolese conflict.
RSN analyzes the disclosures to the SEC and companies’ activities in our annual report Mining the Disclosures. We look at the overall trends of all 1,200+ submissions, and conduct a deep analysis of the largest +/-200 companies. RSN has participated in a number of multi-stakeholder and industry-wide initiatives establishing a verification system for smelters, which is managed by the Responsible Minerals Initiative. RSN was also the lead coordinator in submitting multi-stakeholder comments to the SEC regarding Section 1502’s rule making process. Negotiating joint comments from human rights groups, investors, and corporations was no easy feat, but the SEC staff quoted our recommendations more than any other group or organizations.
Our efforts and those of our colleagues have been paying off, and the mining situation in the DRC is improving. Today, over 200 mines in the DRC are certified conflict-free, and an estimated 1,000 are conflict-free including those located in neighboring countries. The verification of smelters has been steadily growing with over 70% of all tantalum smelters deemed conflict-free. This issue sets a precedent for the level of transparency and accountability an industry can achieve, not to mention improving mining conditions in the DRC, if the companies are committed and have the will to make it happen.