| | 01-30-2012, 10:57 PM Thread Author #1
Conflict minerals and electronic gadgets
This topic has been mentioned in a couple of current threads, as a sideline to other discussions. I feel it is important enough to warrant its own space.
Most of us know that components of modern electronic devices use rare earth metals, especially tantalum and niobium (previously called columbium). Large deposits of these metals are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a brutal civil war has been raging for at least the past 15 years. Militias fund their operations by taking over these mines and keeping most of the profits. So most companies who need these minerals have been trying to find other sources. This is well documented.
HOWEVER - there is another side to this story that most of us are unaware of. The following is a comment on yet another recent article about cellphones and conflict metals.
Link to article: http://www.mobiledia.com/news/121476.html
Real people on the other end of this nonsense are starving and dying, and the militia are flourishing, both because of Dodd-Frank. This legislation is perhaps the greatest proactive tragedy committed against Africa by the west in a hundred years.
We are a Congolese-owned social enterprise mining company working with Chiefs and their tribes in the Congo. We provide a well documented and transparent path via an OECD compliant process. We have hundreds tons of coltan, but because of Dodd-Frank, there is a 100% embargo of legitimate artisanal mineral sales, throughout all of central Africa.
We have challenged every supporting organizaiton of Dodd-Frank to find just one legitimate buyer for these tribes. It has been 463 days now that these tribes are unable to make a living. 400,000 miners are now out of work, affecting 1 million people who depend on them for a living in the conflict area, and 10 million who depend on mining throughout the Congo (World Bank). Diseases only associated with starvation (Kwashiorkor) are now cropping up.
The history of legislation like Dodd-Frank which focus on symptoms instead of causes, is abysmal. Dodd-Frank uses the random hope strategy of legislation that assumes if you remove one source of revenue from a burglar, that the burglar will stop stealing – a profoundly naļve assumption. If a burglar steals from houses, we'll just burn the houses down. Surely making it harder for the burglar to steal will reform the burglar and turn him into a law-abiding citizen.
Dodd-Frank has burned down the entire mining industry of 10 million Congolese in the random hope that it might catch a militia or two in its path. What is the result? Legitimate artisanal mining exports are 100% embargoed – nothing is moving. We know this because we represent these artisans and not a single smelter anywhere in the world is willing to buy these minerals.
The majority of Dodd-Frank minerals don't even come from the relatively small conflict area in the Congo, yet all of central Africa is being punished in hopes of reforming this militia.
How are the militia doing? The UN Panel of Experts and even Global Witness say smuggling by militia is documented to have increased significantly since Dodd-Frank. The burglar is doing just fine.
Dodd-Frank has a predecessor that didn't work, either. Dodd-Frank is being modeled after the Kimberley process, designed to stop militia from smuggling diamonds in Sierra Leone. Five years after it was implemented, studies showed massive fraud on a world-wide scale, and the militia were still doing just fine. Only a British military operation cleared them out. Global Witness, a founding member of Kimberley and a main proponent of Dodd-Frank, pulled out of the Kimberley process in November 2011 because, after 10 years, it still wasn't working. Yet they think Dodd-Frank should move ahead.
Dodd-Frank will have the exact same result, because as with Kimberley, it refuses to recognize that minerals are not the problem, criminals are the problem. Law-abiding miners are already being devastated by Dodd-Frank, the militia is better off than ever, and, as with Kimberley, the only thing that will rid us of them is a military operation.
The Dodd-Frank groupies that don't live there are all re-arranging deck chairs while the ship of the Congolese economy is burned and sunk by this disastrous law. They ignore history and plunge clumsily forward.
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?”.
And as Aloys Tegera of the Pole Institute in Goma says, "They picked the wrong target."
Target the militia. They are the problem, not minerals.
What's an ethical consumer to do? It's a lot simpler to condemn work conditions in Chinese factories.