On January 28, two days before meeting her US counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry, Margot Wallstrom, Foreign Minister of Sweden, met with a delegation from the Enough Project and the Africa Faith & Justice Network to discuss responsible mineral trade as it relates to sourcing from conflict zones. The goal was to ask the Swedish government to support the conflict mineral legislation currently under consideration at the European Union parliament.
Lessons from wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) show there is a great need to ensure mineral trade does not indirectly or directly fund armed conflicts. We as consumers must demand accountability and make it clear that we want products free from conflict, genocide, human trafficking, and all serious human rights abuses.
Africa Faith & Justice Network supports a mandatory public reporting requirement for businesses about their supply chains; a voluntary one negates the purpose of passing the law in the first place. Contrary to the US conflict mineral law (Dodd-Frank, section 1502), the EU version should widen its scope not only in terms of the area it covers, but also in the type of minerals it targets. Section 1502 covers DRC and neighboring countries and targets tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. The EU has the opportunity to add, for example, diamonds, chromites and others. This way it can address conflict mineral supply chains in active conflict zones such as Central African Republic (CAR), DRC and can help prevent future conflict mineral trade at the same time.
Furthermore, we asked that the EU law include funding to support artisanal miners’ integration into the legal mining economy. Sometimes artisanal miners are likely to get involved in illicit trade in part because it is their only option; they cannot compete with large-scale mining companies. Their integration into the broader mining economy requires financial help to boost efficiency and safety. They also need capital to buy better tools, fund cooperatives which serve as bargaining instruments for better prices and development of more efficient supply chains. One of the main issues AFJN heard from artisanal gold miners in Mukera was the feeling of being trapped in perpetual debt, dependant on individual lenders for seed money to start a mining project and to care for their families in the meantime. Finally, the funding can be used to improve agriculture, a sector dominated by women in these communities.
by Jacques Bahati