US firms fail in reporting ‘conflict minerals’: study

By Marc Jourdier, AFP

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo–Many U.S. companies drag on complying with a law against financing armed movements active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through the purchase of ��conflict minerals,�� according to a new study. ��Our analysis shows that most companies seem to prefer business-as-usual to genuinely addressing the risk that their mineral purchases bankroll armed groups overseas,�� Amnesty International said in a study released this week jointly with Global Witness, which combats the looting of natural resources from poor nations. The two groups monitored application of one part of the Dodd-Frank Act, a U.S. financial reform law passed in 2010. The section, regarding minerals such as gold, tin, coltan and tungsten potentially coming from conflict zones, took effect in 2014. U.S. companies listed on the stock exchange must now inform regulators if they procure such raw materials, and whether those come from the DRC or any one of nine countries on its borders. The firms are required to describe the steps they have taken to ensure that the minerals they use have no connection with the strife in the DRC. The law gives companies between two and four years to comply, depending on their size. Amnesty and Global Witness stated that more than 1,000 U.S. companies are affected by the new regulations. The two rights groups focused on 100 of these firms, carefully studying the statements they had made to the Securities and Exchange Commission. ‘Minimum requirements’ The joint report concluded that ��79 percent of the 100 companies analysed failed to meet the minimum requirements of the U.S. conflict minerals law.��

Moreover, only 16 percent had investigated ��beyond their direct suppliers to contact, or attempt to contact, the smelters or refiners that process the minerals,�� it said. The eastern provinces of the vast DRC are rich in minerals but have been wracked for more than 20 years by violent ethnic and territorial conflicts, and even strife over nationality. National and regional political interests further complicate the situation. Most of the belligerents illegally profit from mining or trafficking in the abundant natural resources �X some of which end up being used as vital components of electronic products such as cellphones.