New US regulation imposes ‘non DR Congo origin’ certificate on mineral exports from Rwanda
Mineral exports from Rwanda will have to be proved with certificates that they are not from the DR Congo before they are bought by American companies, according to new regulations passed by the US Senate on Thursday.
The financial industry reform bill, passed in Senate July 15, requires companies buying coltan, cassiterite, wolframite and gold from Congo and its neighbors to certify the purchases aren’t funding armed groups.
Minerals from Rwanda require certification that they are “DRC conflict free,” according to the bill. The regulation also affects eight other countries neighbouring Congo including Angola, Tanzania and Uganda.
War in Congo killed more than 3 million people from 1998 to 2007, says the International Rescue Committee, and rebels still roam the mineral-rich east of the country.
This section of the U.S. bill is aimed at preventing armed groups such as the Rwandan FDLR rebels from enriching themselves and funding conflict through the sale of minerals, say the Americans.
However, despite being applauded by global campaign groups, mineral exporters in Congo say it is effectively an embargo on the whole of DR Congo.
“We are totally shocked by the passing of this bill which is in spirit an embargo on materials from DRC and adjoining countries,” said John Kanyoni, head of the Association of Mineral Exporters in Congo’s eastern North Kivu province.
The demands of the bill are infeasible, Kanyoni wrote yesterday in an open letter to the U.S. embassy’s economic consular in Congo. The requirements will also undermine efforts to increase transparency in the trade, he said.
Congo is Africa’s largest producer of cassiterite, or tin ore, making up 6 percent of world output. It’s also home to the biggest undeveloped gold deposit on the continent, held by a joint venture between Randgold Resources Ltd. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. More than 80 percent of the country’s gold trade is unregistered, according to mines ministry estimates.
Activists and humanitarian groups applauded the amendment, which gives the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission nine months to come up with an implementation plan.
U.K.-based Global Witness called the bill’s passage a “breakthrough against conflict and corruption,” according to an e-mailed statement. U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services said on its website that the bill was a “huge victory for those ravaged by conflict.”
“The world moved a step closer to ensuring that the supply chains for our laptops and cell phones do not finance violence in eastern Congo,” John Prendergast, co-founder of the U.S.- based Enough Project, said in an e-mailed statement July 15.
The New York-based Jewelers of America trade group was “very concerned” the bill “could encourage jewelry companies to avoid trading in gold from the region, in order to bypass the issue completely,” it said yesterday on its website.
The amendment, introduced by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama next week along with the financial reform bill.
From the day President Obama signs the bill, the Securities and Exchange Commission will have nine months to develop regulations implementing the new law. It will be up to all of us to ensure that these regulations are as strong as possible, writes Dr Victoria Bentley on her blog.
This legislation is a piece of the broader solution. We now have to turn our attention from the legislative branch of our government to the executive branch, to ensure that the Obama administration helps lead an international effort to create what we call a “trace, audit, and certify” regime to ensure that the raw materials that go into our cell phones and laptops are not fueling conflict.
Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Barney Frank (D-MA), along with many other upstanding members of Congress, deserve special praise for leading this battle over the past two years.