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back to article Conflict mineral laws haven't helped Congolese

So the tantalum for the capacitors in our electronics comes from columbo-tantalite, which is coltan, which comes from militias in the Congo, so we should have a law making sure that no tantalum for our electronics comes from militias in the Congo. Fine, we do have that now, it's part of Dodd Frank*, and how's it working out? Not …

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those tants must be ancient. Current ones are way smaller and surace mount.

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I'm not saying I disagree with the main thrust of your article, far from it, but there are some strange arguments being used. For example,

"Cabot and Starck, the respectively US and European processors of coltan just won't even discuss purchases from the area." even though there is at least one supplier who "has export licences from the Congo, can transport across Tanzania, can show where they mined, to whom they paid taxes (no militias involved)". That evidence would, to my mind, go at least some way to "to ensure the purchase of these minerals does not fund the illegally armed groups operating in the DRC".

That neither processors of coltan are prepared to purchase from the supplier surely says as much about them as the lack of a unified verification framework - what rules or regulations would Starck be transgressing for instance ?

I do agree that is sounds like a right shambles and, from what you've said, that the those who pay the price are once again the ones at the bottom of the food chain - but perhaps the industry too might be moved to try and agree a set of working guidelines as they seemingly cannot even use common sense, if the case of the tribal company above is correct.

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Because.....

"That neither processors of coltan are prepared to purchase from the supplier surely says as much about them as the lack of a unified verification framework - what rules or regulations would Starck be transgressing for instance ?"

You have to show, through paperwork, that you have not bought from the bad guys. But there is no system of paperwork which allows you to show this. There simply is no system extant that allows you to prove what the law says you must prove.

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Facepalm

Because...

Since the regulations weren't defined, any good faith attempt to satisfy this regulation, no matter how sincere, will immediately run headlong into step 2 in the US: A lawsuit.

Not just any lawsuit, either -- a lawsuit with a highly litigious group that really didn't give a rat's arse about the miners themselves*, has an overly sympathetic ear with the public, and free lawyers. It's a free PR disaster. Why do that, when you can wait for the nitwits that came up with this law to define what the hell it is that they actually want?

It was a poorly thought out law, but what "free-trade" law isn't. Most destroy more than they help -- but at least they enrich someone's cronies, and help with the "smug buzz".

* Else they'd have *said* what they wanted, regulation-wise.

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"There simply is no system extant that allows you to prove what the law says you must prove."

That's part of my point - exactly what laws are you talking about in relation to Starcks behaviour ? The law you are talking about is a US law (which I have not read, but will be looking up) - otherwise it is a 'pledge' according to the article, so surely good faith would enter in here, even if the supplier didn't have evidence to show it was legitimate - which you maintain it did.

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@perlcat

"Since the regulations weren't defined, any good faith attempt to satisfy this regulation, no matter how sincere, will immediately run headlong into step 2 in the US: A lawsuit."

Indeed, if the company was a US company. Part of my post, poorly made perhaps, was to ask why this effecting anyone else, e.g. Starck - if the supplier really did have evidence it was legitimate, then they could surely go ahead with good conscience (they have nothing more to adhere to than a pledge).

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Err, that's it !

>>> ... is a US law ...

Simple really, if you want to be able to sell your product in the USA, you have to comply with their laws. In effect, that means you need to be able to prove to your purchasers that you've complied, and that all the components you've used come from suppliers that comply, and that their suppliers comply, an so on all the way back to the source.

So the tantalum processors are taking the view that since they cannot **prove** the provenance of the ore from the Congo, they cannot therefore satisfy the requirements of their customers. Thus the only safe option is to not buy from the Congo at all until it's all resolved.

The other option is to keep two supply chains going - the US acceptable supply chain (all the way from mined ore to products in consumers' hands), and one for countries not so restricted. Put simply, unless alternative sources were significantly more expensive, then no-one in the electronics industries wants that level of complexity and cost.

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Dodd-Frank section 1502 (Conflict minerals)

I've been reading that section since this the last post, interesting - vague and wafflely in places certainly - and couldn't immediately see the prescriptions described in the articles. Whilst looking further I happened upon this page

http://www.globalwitness.org/library/dodd-frank-acts-section-1502-conflict-minerals

The second paragraph starts thus...

"This legislation has the potential to make a significant positive impact on the ground in the DRC; however, there has been considerable fear-mongering and spreading of misinformation about the Act’s requirements and likely impact. "

The rest of the page, as far as i've read, seems interesting as well - as would put somewhat more of the onus on people other than the NGO and pressure groups than this article suggests. Tim - given your experience in dealing in the trade, what would you say to some of the points made in that article ? Is it reasonable and, if not, can you say why you disagree ?

Cheers

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@Simon Hobson

"Simple really, if you want to be able to sell your product in the USA, you have to comply with their laws. In effect, that means you need to be able to prove to your purchasers that you've complied, and that all the components you've used come from suppliers that comply, and that their suppliers comply, an so on all the way back to the source."

I think you need to read the wording in the Act and see some of the descriptions around that try and interpret it - that's what i'm doing and it is not on the face of it what is being described in the article. Given what I believe the regulations intend (as far as i've read), I believe potential PR effects from competitors will have more of effect on processors than the law.

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Big Brother

Next step just a "lawsuit"?

More like a morning visit from the guys in blue with high-quality german 9mm submachineguns locked and loaded and subsequent out-of-business signs adorning the front door.

Yup, there's a name for this. It starts with f and designates an ism.

Ya may want to check out what happened to Gibson Guitars when it turned out someone though they had the wrong kind of wood:

http://www.science20.com/science_20/gibson_guitars_and_lacey_act_misused-82210

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For example

From the page:

"A clear due diligence standard is necessary in order to provide accurate, consistent and reliable information in the reports companies submit to the SEC. If issuers are allowed to choose from a variety of different measures, some are likely to choose the ones with the least stringent requirements. Global Witness is recommending that the SEC, in its final rules,"

The SEC rules haven't even been published yet, so how can anyone obey them (for example, there is still uncertainty about whether recycled scrap is to be included in the regs or not.

You might find this paper interesting.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/files/tulane-study.pdf

My argument is not that the rules themselves should not exist. Rather, that those campaigning for them should have known that there would be this bureaucratic interregnum, should take responsibility for it, and should have made damn certain that everything was in place before the law was passed.

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FAIL

Yeah, but ...

Gibson is a "known" Republican - his competition supports Obama's Democrat Party and have no problems. Why doesn't Gibson understand that if he sends money only to the Democrats that it'll all go away? And he calls himself a businessman!

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Re : For example

"The SEC rules haven't even been published yet, so how can anyone obey them"

..because the rule frameworks proposed to the SEC are in existence already, and have been for in use for years ?

"You might find this paper interesting.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/files/tulane-study.pdf"

Thank you - i'm going through it now, interesting indeed if somewhat seemingly pessimistic at first glance (but then again i'm not familiar with this particular industry, i'll do more digging).

"My argument is not that the rules themselves should not exist. Rather, that those campaigning for them should have known that there would be this bureaucratic interregnum, should take responsibility for it, and should have made damn certain that everything was in place before the law was passed."

You know full well that the NGOs cannot ensure "that everything was in place before the law was passed" given that they are not the law-makers - ditto the industry sector. Individual actors do not get to dictate absolute policy - you know that. What people can do, and it sounds like many of them have been doing, is trying to lobby to get "everything in place" - that is presumably what the section immediately after your quote is on about, the last sentence being particularly germane.

"Global Witness is recommending that the SEC, in its final rules, states unequivocally that the due diligence requirements for Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act are exactly the same as those already adopted by the OECD and the UN Security Council. In July the OECD sent a letter to the SEC signed by nearly 200 companies, governments and Congolese and international NGOs which makes the same recommendation."

I'm *not* saying that no more should be done by the NGOs or other parties - I *am* saying that your insistence that the issue is entirely the fault of the NGOs appears to be disingenuous at best. The fact that you highlight none of the positive aspects of the Motorola release is surprising as well.

Do you honestly think that the full responsibility is to be laid at the door of Global Witness and others, that industry and the various governments have no part to play at all, really ?

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Black Helicopters

re: responsibility:

"Do you honestly think that the full responsibility is to be laid at the door of Global Witness and others, that industry and the various governments have no part to play at all, really ?"

Actually, the blame can be spread all 'round. However, the path to success could have been a lot simpler.

Step 1: Global Witness work with the buyers, help define what is a valid source, and what isn't.

Step 2: The ethical companies disclose their valid sources in their advertising, people buy from the ethical companies, the unethical ones look like the jerks they are, and lose market share.

Step 3: This disclosure becomes an industry standard.

You'll notice there need be no government involvement, and the miners as well as the buyers, which is ultimately all of us, are not in a bad situation.

However, it does jack for PR for the NGO's, and they don't get to play-act at being self-righteous. That's why it will never happen. How can you fund-raise for a problem if you've solved it?

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An even simpler and monumentally more effective solution. Point guns at the militia and either put them in prison or kill them.

The Kimberley "blood diamond" process proved that legislation targeting the symptom (ONE source of militia revenue) instead of the cause (the militia themselves) doesn't work. Five years into that nearly identical process research showed massive worldwide abuse of the process, allowing criminal elements to sell at will. And most damning of an "attack the symptom" approach - Kimberley did nothing to rid us of the Sierra Leone militia. The British army went in, pointed guns at those with guns and either arrested them or killed them.

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Yes, the fault lies with the NGOs

Tim Parker,

You said, "Do you honestly think that the full responsibility is to be laid at the door of Global Witness and others, that industry and the various governments have no part to play at all, really ?"

The answer is yes, and absolutely yes. The politicians did not decide to demonize minerals instead of criminals. That movement started with STAND at Stanford Univ. a year ago - I debated conflict minerals there last week. This became "your cell phone is evil" and swept across campuses. Enough Project and Global Witness found they could raise a lot of money with this empty message, and did so. They pressured the politicians to pass a bill. Enough Project is said to have largely written the bill themselves. And as for the industry people - why is no one calling for these very same countries to put together a chain of custody for the identical minerals coming out of Australia, Brazil and a dozen other places? Very, very simply because the problem is not minerals, but criminals.

The advocacy groups know very well that demonizing minerals will not solve this issue, but it is the easiest way for them to raise money. They could have pressured the politicians to get the UN to grow a backbone and go after the militia, but they wouldn't make a single dime doing that. This is ALL about advocacy groups raising money, at the expense of the politicians, the industry, and most of all, at the expense of those for whom the claim to advocate, the Congolese people. This is a travesty of the highest order, and these groups have blood on their hands.

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Anonymous Coward

Do-gooders?

"At a $3m or $4m value, that's a lot of money being withheld from poor people just because the do-gooders didn't think about the paperwork before they went whining to the politicians."

Do the "do-gooders" actually have to do the work of the politicians and civil servants as well now? Don't we actually pay the politicians and civil servants to actually implement the structures that make our societies function, or is it now the role of the former to make speeches and the latter to push paper around, write mission statements and document whether they're hitting their "targets" or not?

"You guys in the NGOs wanted this job: why aren't you doing it?"

You do realise that the reason the NGOs wanted intervention was that these places are really fucking nasty and that they can't just wander in and set up all that verification in the same way that, say, a bunch of Fairtrade representatives can just wander into a relatively well-governed part of the world and make some deal with some cooperative?

Sadly, it's only in areas like this - people buying shiny stuff suddenly having to think about how it was made - that the NGOs have any kind of leverage. The outside world wouldn't (and generally doesn't) care about what goes on in places like Congo were it not for the mineral resources, and even then the big powers have been content to let the local powers fight each other over those resources as long as they can still buy the mining output.

What next? Amnesty International doesn't have it's own army and is therefore not putting its money where its mouth is? Sheesh!

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Black Helicopters

It's real simple.

They should have said what they wanted, regulation-wise and proof-wise at the onset. Ditching this responsibility just shows that it wasn't about the miners -- but about the free publicity in pushing the buyers of tantalum into the box of being the 'bad guys'. It was one of those "heads, I win, tails, you lose" situations, and they didn't feel like taking the beating on this one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's real simple.

"They should have said what they wanted, regulation-wise and proof-wise at the onset."

Do they now get to lecture you and the article's author in a condescending way about the complexity of introducing any kind of regulation of this nature on an international basis?

"Ditching this responsibility just shows that it wasn't about the miners -- but about the free publicity in pushing the buyers of tantalum into the box of being the 'bad guys'. It was one of those "heads, I win, tails, you lose" situations, and they didn't feel like taking the beating on this one."

Oh, that's right: this is all about finger-waving people giving you a downer because you were born into a wealthy society and now that trip to the Apple Store is just ruined. Having read about the situation the miners and their families have to face, I can assure you that people do care about them: it would be pretty hard not to, really.

But oh no, I forgot: this is all about a bunch of super-rich do-gooders pissing into your cornflakes because they can. That's clearly the most rational explanation for all this. Sheesh!

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Trollface

actually...

"this is all about a bunch of super-rich do-gooders pissing into your cornflakes because they can"

That is about the best explanation I have read for this legislation. Were they aware of the complexity of this legislation? I would think so, having pushed for similar legislation before, with similar devastating results.

If you have seen that every time you push a button, people suffer, then you have a responsibility to fix it so that the next time you push the button, people *don't* suffer. Otherwise, *you're* as much of the problem as the militias, the miners, and the manufacturers. Maybe even more so, since you claim superior knowledge.

It'd be great to just make the world's problems go away by passing a law. Doesn't seem to be working here, and now I've got you all worked up.

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@perlcat

"They should have said what they wanted, regulation-wise and proof-wise at the onset. Ditching this responsibility just shows that it wasn't about the miners"

From

http://www.globalwitness.org/library/dodd-frank-acts-section-1502-conflict-minerals

----%<----

"A clear due diligence standard is necessary in order to provide accurate, consistent and reliable information in the reports companies submit to the SEC. If issuers are allowed to choose from a variety of different measures, some are likely to choose the ones with the least stringent requirements. Global Witness is recommending that the SEC, in its final rules, states unequivocally that the due diligence requirements for Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act are exactly the same as those already adopted by the OECD and the UN Security Council. In July the OECD sent a letter to the SEC signed by nearly 200 companies, governments and Congolese and international NGOs which makes the same recommendation.

The due diligence standards adopted by the OECD and the UN Security Council consist of a five point framework that includes on the ground risk assessments and audits. The OECD guidance is the product of a tripartite working group comprising companies, governments and NGOs. "

----%<----

It would seem that they have thought about this - at least at some point in time - does it not ?

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Unhappy

Ok. Suppose you are in charge of procurement.

Where do you start?

"exactly the same as those already adopted by the OECD and the UN Security Council"

Ohhhumm... is it Friday yet?

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Black Helicopters

I don't think so.

The problem is, somebody has to take all the legislative waffle and turn it into administrative law. If, for example, the business decided that 'adequate disclosure' mean that they could bury this in a web page, then somebody's going to court. If 'adequate disclosure' means full page ads in major newspapers, Super Bowl Ads, then they need to specify that, too.

It was written vaguely intentionally. Lawyers love vague, and government lawyers even more so. They can do as much as, or as little as the mood strikes them. Mostly their mood runs towards crony capitalism.

Stuff like "The due diligence standards adopted by the OECD and the UN Security Council consist of a five point framework that includes on the ground risk assessments and audits." sounds good on the webpage, but doesn't mean anything more than a manager saying that they want to "Engage market synergies to leverage corporate dynamics in a results-based paradigm." They punted this one down the road, and without a concrete "you fill out this form here, send it there, and your due diligence for proof consists of X, Y, and Z", it all looks like a bunny hug to me.

I feel for the NGO's, don't get me wrong. Reminds me a lot of the time a guy suggested that the company save water in the company gym showers by installing restrictive shower heads. The company installed .2 gallon per minute shower heads, and proudly announced that it was thanks to his suggestion. They called him "Mister mister".

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First hand knowledge

Dear Anonymous Coward,

I'm glad to give you my first hand perspective on both the Congo and the advocacy groups you call do-gooders. Exports from the area are down 70-95% depending on which independent sources you use. On a more personal basis I know dozens of people who have lost their jobs and the livelihoods in the Congo directly because of Dodd-Frank, who have moved from abject poverty to utter destitution.

And how did those do-gooders respond? In a conference call with the five leaders of Enough Project to tell them our legitimate miners are starving and can't sell their coltan, they said "Why don't you sell it to the Chinese?" Here we have an advocacy group claiming that human rights is their only mission, telling us to sell to the worst human rights violators on earth (the Chinese are the ONLY people buying coltan right now, and legitimate miners won't sell to them because they are just as bad about human rights in the Congo as in China).

And Global Witness, the other major advocacy group in this debacle just pointed to smuggling by the militia last week as proof that things aren't as bad people like me say they are. They're pointint to activity by the enemy to show we should forge ahead with Dodd-Frank.

They are not advocating for the Congolese, but for their fundraising, and as a result, they have the blood of the Congolese on their hands. They should be disbanded entirely as advocacy groups.

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Don't "feel" for the NGOs

Whatever you do, don't "feel" for the NGOs. Enough Project was principal in pushing the creation of this legislation, actually writing it, and stuffing down the throats of politicians and the industry. They created this monster because it makes for great fundraising, while my friends starve to death in the Congo as a result.

As Eric Kajemba, the leader of a major Congolese civil society group has said, "If the advocacy groups are not advocating for us, for whom are they advocating?"

If you feel anything for the NGOs, feel disgust and disdain, for they have completely lost their way on this in the greed of fundraising.

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Go TantalumDirect™

Conflict-free minerals are an ethical issue as least as important as Coffee and Tea ethics but it's no enough to make sure they're conflict-free, we need to make sure the miners have a decent wage.

Fortunately, there's a model that already works: Fairtrade. It works for basic beverages; is changing the landscape of chocolate production; exists for clothing manufacturing and even minerals such as gold.

The US legislators should therefore be asking www.fairtrade.org; cafedirect or even www.cred.co.uk ( certified fairtrade jewellers) for their advice: they've been doing it for up to decades, they've probably got the hang of it better than anyone.

-cheers.

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Usual twaddle

"Conflict" restrictions are a back door for commercial monopolists. The whole "conflict diamonds" story was concocted by De Beers in order to put in place a worldwide control system which they, as experienced market controllers, would be ideally placed to manage. You can put "conflict minerals" in the same category: just another way for monopolists to pad their margins. And the beauty of the scheme is that every bleeding heart in the world is solidly behind it!

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Black Helicopters

Or, to sum it up this way:

There is no bad situation created by bad governance as a poorly-thought-out reaction to other bad governance that more bad governance cannot be ginned up to make considerably worse.

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Pint

Bootleggers and Baptists in other words

It's pretty much everywhere you look. Cabon trading, wind farms, whatever. There is always an alliance of the Pure In Heart (TM) together with the cynical who will make money surfing the moral wave.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bootleggers_and_Baptists

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Facepalm

How to keep full employment....

"...You guys in the NGOs wanted this job: why aren't you doing it?"

Because we already have a whole new problem on our plate - one that will make it critically important that we all attend conferences and fund-raising beanos welll into the next year.

Haven't you heard that there is shortly going to be mass unemployment and starvation across central Africa? Some place called the Congo has had some kind of economic disaster, and we all have to do our very best to help. Stephanie's already attending two dinner parties in Islington this week to discuss it....

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It would be difficult...

...to improve upon what AC @ 14:10 said, so I shan't try, but will add another voice in support of the view that your carping at NGOs, whose raison d'etre is to campaign for the legislative and administrative process to act to limit or eliminate harm, for not entirely supplanting that legislative and administrative process is idiotically illogical. EP & GW did not "want this job", they were campaigning for recognition that "this job" needed doing and for international action and resourcing to ensure that it was done. Despite your assertion that "we have this now", we plainly don't, unless your contention is that a US statute has somehow acquired global jurisdiction, and will somehow be enforced by some mythical international agency that exists nowhere outside of your head.

We have some legislation that affects the United States, but has no jurisdictional reach beyond there. So should we be carping at EP & GW for not enforcing that legislation there, perhaps? They have no authority or resourcing to do that, but I would note that they have been campaigning and pressuring the SEC (whose fucking job it is, by the way; a point of which you seem blissfully unaware) to finalize the very rules that you're complaining about the lack of. Whilst fighting the US Chamber of Commerce who want to gut those very same rules. You might try looking at http://www.globalwitness.org/library/law-curb-conflict-minerals-under-attack-chamber-commerce or http://www2.americanprogress.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=154 , for instance, and then direct some of your acid barbs at the people who are the fucking problem rather than at the people campaigning for the solution. Having done that, you might then consider whether pressing for international action to enact and enforce similar rules might be a good idea, especially since we have organizations like the EU and the UN, whose job it ALSO fucking is to enact and enforce such legislation. Or you could, you know, just go back to whingeing about how horrible the people who campaign for legislation and enforcement are.

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Black Helicopters

I don't think that any business

has a problem with avoiding products that cause death/whatever negative outcome. It is a lot easier to sleep at night having done the right thing -- but even the most cynical finds the positive PR to be helpful.

All the businesses I know have a problem with being set up as the bad guy. A well-written piece of legislation could have worked wonders. This one doesn't -- it just leaves the people buying and selling the minerals holding the bag while the people that instituted the legislation dither around, trying to decide what they want.

Given that most times these NGO's are more interested in grandstanding and bargaining in poor faith, the onus to make the legislation effective by defining a satisfactory outcome is on them. Positing businesses as inherently evil is the essence of poor faith bargaining. There's no way to negotiate reasonably with someone whose sole quasi-religious desire is to ensure your economic demise.

Calling them "the fucking problem" speaks volumes about how well any good faith attempt at complying without a definition of what is satisfactory will work with people such as yourself. You have deigned to call them "the problem" -- why not also call the miners "the problem"? They also are caught in the middle. "The problem" is the thugocracies. Deal with _them_ in a way that doesn't hurt the buyer and seller, and you'll have a solution.

Businesses are just economic engines that reflect our priorities as a society as a whole. They're neither 'good' nor 'bad'. Ban pot, and criminals will sell it. Make it legal, and then farmers will grow it. Regulate it highly like tobacco, and the government makes a fortune in the selling of concessions. Take your pick.

Take the legislation for eliminating white phosphorous in matches as another example. Many very ethical people (Quakers) were involved in making matches, but were economically forced to use white instead of red phosphorous. You can be as ethical as you want, but if your customers won't buy your ethical product, you're going to need to find a less satisfactory way to produce or go bankrupt. Once legislation on the use of white phosphorous appeared, the playing field was leveled, and the world was better for it.

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Anonymous Coward

seriously, how naive are you?!?!?

"We have some legislation that affects the United States, but has no jurisdictional reach beyond there."

This is, in effect, a global law - we're talking about a massive supply chain involving manufacturers across the world.

I believe some companies have the ability (and will) to have two completely separate supply chains in order to bypass US laws but it's a PITA from what I hear to administer.

(From a drunken conversation with a friend in the pub who works for a company affected... his company deals globally, and are affected by laws in some mid-east countries that mean they're not allowed to deal with companies that DO deal with Israel. But the US won't allow trade with companies that do NOT deal with Israel. So as the markets are big enough this one company has two legally independent trading arms with their own ring-fenced supply chains.)

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Gobal and Enough are the problem

Nichomach,

See my other responses here. Global Witness and Enough Project are the central problem. No U.S. politician was pushing for this legislation - they weren't even aware of the issues. GW and Enough created this issue, starting with STAND at Stanford Univ., and milked it for every penny they collect from college students. They created the "cell phones are evil" message because it's simplistic enough for college students to grasp and throw $5 at GW to fix.

Enough Project wrote the legislation and carried it to indebted politicians whom they bribe with reelection funds.

The Congolese hate Dodd-Frank, calling it "Loi Obama", or Obama's Law. Take a LONG look at everything GW and Enough are touting about this bill and you won't find a single Congolese miner who they are citing, because none of them are behind this law.

GW and Enough have Congolese blood on their hands and they seem fine with that as long as their simplistic "cell phones are evil message" is bringing in the dough - just like the giant corporations they pretend to hate and are now in bed with.

Enough recommended that miners sell to the Chinese, the worst human rights violators, and Global has pointed at the verified increase in smuggling by the militia as proof there is no embargo in the DR Congo. These groups have no conscience left.

But they are sure pulling in the dough with their "cell phones are evil" message.

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This is a case of poor/inadequate legislation, not failure on the part of NGOs.

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The NGOs wrote Dodd-Frank

Red Death - you said, "This is a case of poor/inadequate legislation, not failure on the part of NGOs."

The NGOs were the ONLY ones pushing for this legislation. They brought it to their indebted politicians who didn't even read it, and demanded that the politicians hide it in Dodd-Frank and pass it. Enough Project wrote the legislation themselves.

It is 100% on the backs of the NGOs, as is the blood that flows freely in the Congo because of Dodd-Frank.

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Blood Diamond

For those of you who have watched the film Blood Diamond (I promise not to praise anything else that has Leonardo Di Caprio in it!) you might remember that they did a similar thing for Sierra Leone and what happened was that the stuff got smuggled over the border and the dodgy merchants bought the stuff with all the paperwork neatly signed. The money still went to the militias. As the credits to the film highlighted, the problem only really got solved when the Brits went in and 'accidently' decimated the big militias.

Legislation is always pointless in the absence of real world action and this case just proves that point again! As with anything in Africa, doing something half hearted does not work and means the people at the bottom suffer. Something the NGOs should have taken into account as they know this full well as they have seen it often enough. They should have blocked the law going through until it was worked up properly, they don't need an army, but they do have a lot of people with PHDs and Masters who are paid to do this work.

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FAIL

illegally armed groups

illegally armed groups are only illegal unless they win.

What the rest of the world really wanted is tolerable working conditions for the miners i.e. no forced slavery, or extremely dangerous working conditions. They should be trying to apply that to all the miners not just the ones not under the control of the recognized (but not in control) government.

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Sounds good to me.

Hope they can make that work.

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Some important words missing from this article

Rwanda

Tony & Blair

United & Nations & Organization

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Mushroom

Enough Project and Global Witness are causing starvation and sufffering in the Congo.

How does arguing about their good intentions alter that fact?

They should be campaigning to resolve this problem with equal fervour or live with the guilt.

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Big Brother

Fighting to solve the problems created by the solutions we fought for

"They should be campaigning to resolve this problem"...really? The problem that THEY created?

Although that's a pretty good gig. Fight strongly for a policy that will cause increased suffering and misery. Then fight strongly for policies to alleviate that suffering and misery. Play your cards right and you'll be able to fight strongly forever. In other words, WAR IS PEACE.

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Anonymous Coward

...no one at all ever thought that more than a few per cent was being controlled by militias...

ignoring the 'no one at all' claim, which is very spin-y, the 'more than a few per cent was controlled by militias' is intriguing vague. Can you provide a ref with actual figures? A quick look on wiki (yes, I know! as far as you can throw it, I agree!) says (from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mining_industry_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo>)

"Rebel and militia groups commit widespread human rights abuses, including rape, enslavement, torture, disappearances and killing of civilians. These groups compete for finances from illegal mining. Reports indicate that corporations have facilitated these abuses by obtaining minerals from areas controlled by these groups"

Horrid, really, but necessary for mineral investors. Omelettes, eggs and all that.

"Sexual violence is an especially widespread and devastating issue across the country. Between 1.69 and 1.80 million women reported being raped in their lifetime. Around mines, survival prostitution, sex slavery, and forced child prostitution has been observed. This widespread sexual violence contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well. "

Those naughty milia are certainly putting it about a bit!

And then

"Assessment and assistance by outside organizations has been difficult. Access to mining areas is limited by corrupt government officials and hostile militias. Recently, reductions in mortality rate have been documented. This is linked to improvements in security, humanitarian and politic issues. These improvements, however, are limited by continued unregulated mining. Exploitation of natural resources by rebel groups supplying international corporations continues to impair the growth of peace and stability"

I guess a 'few per cent' with guns can do some decent oppressing. But us do-gooders have probably killed more people in the long run with our wooly green desire for people to live in peace and without fear.

BTW given that this piece of ill-considered legislation is directly relevant to your business interests, did you try to affect its form or suggest where it could have been improved, before it was passed?

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Bronze badge

Ah no

This legislation is not directly relevant to my business interests. I don't deal in any of the four metals concerned. Not do I have any dealings with any African minerals at all.

I know about the minerals, the metals, the supply chains, because I am involved in similar metals. But not these four and not from Africa.

(For example, I have dealt with both Cabot and Starck in the past looking at the metals that are left over in their wastes from processing columbo tantalite and tin slags. I know the German organisation which can "fingerprint" coltan and tell you which mine it came from by looking at the residual elements. I've even a list of the scandium contents in coltan from every mining area: but that's because I'm interested in scandium, not these four metals.)

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Anonymous Coward

@Tim Worstal

That was helpful, ta, and I'm glad you're not involved in that mess.

But, that support of that percentage figure please?

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A small percentage is from militia

Anonymous Coward,

You claim people are just making "claims" about the fact the only a small percentage of the minerals come from militia. Your claim that this is simply an unsupported claim is much more specious.

Are you aware the Congo is the size of everything east of the Mississippi in the U.S.? Are you aware that there are six major mining regions in the Congo separated by hundreds to a thousand miles, not even connected by roads? Are you aware that these same minerals are mined in all six regions and that five of them have NEVER been involved in conflict of any kind? In the conflict area itself, are you aware of COCABI, COMIMPA and COMIDER, mining associations represent 20,000 miners in the conflict area who are legitimate and unattached to militia? Do you personally know the few dozen chiefs we know in that area who own mines and refuse to sell to the militia or the Chinese and are starving instead? Are you aware that Dodd-Frank includes nine surrounding countries, six of which have never been involved in the conflict at any time, and that all of their mining is suffering equally right now as well? Are you aware that the World Bank says 10 million people throughout the vast Congo get their legitimate living from mining and that at least 1 million of them have been moved from abject poverty to utter destitution by Dodd-Frank?

No one knows how much of the minerals were controlled by the militia, but based simply on the number of mines and miners who are known to exist in non-conflict areas and those in the conflict areas that are known to be legitimate, the most that could be reasonably possible for the militia control through the 10 countries would be 1/2 to 1% (1% would be a stretch).

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Percentage data

Anonymous Coward - see my response to your question on this above.

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Anonymous Coward

@ChuckBlakeman

Sorry for the delay in replying, I hadn't seen your post.

> You claim people are just making "claims" about the fact the only a small percentage of the minerals come from militia. Your claim that this is simply an unsupported claim is much more specious.

I claimed nothing. I merely asked for supporting evidence. You are deliberately misrepresenting me.

> Are you aware the Congo is the size of everything east of the Mississippi in the U.S.?

Are you aware this is a UK site? We use the 'Wales'. But yes, I know how big it is.

> Are you aware that there are six major mining [...] the Chinese and are starving instead?

No, this is useful info and exactly what the original article should have provided to make it's case, assuming this is all verifiable. Please provide refs.

> Are you aware that Dodd-Frank includes nine surrounding countries, six of which have never been involved in the conflict at any time...

I'd be surprised if legislation included other countries with no reason at all. At a guess that might be to do with preventing smuggling through them, which you concede does occur. Just a guess though.

> Are you aware that the World Bank says 10 million people throughout the vast Congo get their legitimate living from mining and that at least 1 million of them have been moved from abject poverty to utter destitution by Dodd-Frank?

your blog <http://chuckblakeman.com/2011/11/texts/dodd-frank-is-killing-people-in-the-congo-right-now> says 100,000. "And even in the conflict region there are 100,000 honest miners who have been moved from poverty to destitution by Dodd-Frank."

> No one knows how much of the minerals were controlled by the militia, but based simply on the number of mines and miners who are known to exist in non-conflict areas and those in the conflict areas that are known to be legitimate, the most that could be reasonably possible for the militia control through the 10 countries would be 1/2 to 1% (1% would be a stretch).

I don't follow your reasoning, and the article was about congo, not including 9 other countries.

I've also replied to your "Dodd-Frank is killing people in the congo" post.

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Devil

Really?

I don't think there's much hope for that. We can't even get the chocolate industry to agree not to use cocoa beans harvested by slave labor in Cote d'Ivoire.

People just don't give a damn.

This is one of the few instances were journalism would do a lot of good. Sure people might ignore where the minerals for their electronics and the cocoa for their sweets come from. Smear their faces with the blood of thousands slaving away and you'll get a reaction.

No way that the 1% would let that air on national TV but that's one of the good purposes of Bit Torrent.

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Dodd-Frank is killing people in the congo

Tim Parker,

We are the company you speak of. Our miners have not been able to sell their coltan for 14 months now. There are hundreds of thousands of miners and their families who have been pushed from poverty to utter destitution by this Dodd-Frank debacle. And for the two biggest smelters in the world, the damage is permanent; to them Congo minerals are radioactive and their is no half-life to when they will buy again. Many of the others will also never come back, and right now none of them are buying.

No more than 1-2% of all the minerals coming out of the Congo and the other nine central African countries affected by the de facto embargo imposed by Dodd-Frank. There are 10 million miners (World Bank numbers) in the Congo, and millions of them have been shut down by Dodd-Frank. Five of the six mining regions in the Cong have no connection with the conflict area and only a small minority of the mines in the conflict area are controlled by militia.

The militia existed long before they found minerals as a funding source. They don't exist because of minerals and will continue if that source were ever taken away. Second, the Kimberley diamond process is the model for Dodd-Frank. Kimberley put together a very similar verification process to ensure we didn't buy blood diamonds from Sierra Leone. Five years later someone bothered to take a close look and found out that over 50% of the diamonds coming through the Kimberley process were illegal - the process was a sham. And did it get rid of the militia? No, the British army finally had to go in and kill the militia. The Kimberley process had no effect on them, but it sure made it harder for legitimate miners.

Further, the fact that Cabot nor Starck will buy says nothing about us - you are making a judgment of convenience to support your bias. The fact is there are about 20 smelters of coltan in the world and NONE of them are buy from ANYONE in the Congo right now, except for the Chinese who have the worst human rights record on earth and don't give a rats rear end about the Congolese. We will not sell to them or the militia.

Enough Project has recommended we sell our coltan to the Chinese human rights violators. Enough Project is supposed to have human rights advocacy as their mission, and here they are recommending that we sell to the Chinese just so they can prove someone is still buying minerals. An unconscionable move from those who claim to be protecting the Congolese.

Global Witness, the other supposed human rights group involved has just last week highlighted smuggling as proof that exporting stories like ours aren't as bad as we say. So they're now pointing to the successes of the criminals as proof that Dodd-Frank is working.

As Eric Kajemba, the leader of a Congolese civil-society group has said, “If the advocacy groups aren’t speaking for the people of eastern Congo, whom are they speaking for?”

Dodd-Frank is the worst offense ever afflicted on the Congolese people by arrogant westerners like Enough and Global, and they now have the blood of the Congolese on their hands. Eric is right. They are now advocating for a political position without regard for the truth or the for the people themselves. Unconscionable is not strong enough.

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