AllAfrica: Gaps Threaten Conflict Minerals Certification

Wednesday, 13 November, 2013

Another reminder of something we all probably already knew - a new report by the Enough Project suggests that countries in Africa, and this report focusses of the Great Lakes region in particular - are making excessively slowly progress towards a structure for international certification of sourcing of "conflict minerals”

It’s more on a depressing trend of failure to regulate ethics and management all across the extractives industries of all kinds - from gold to oil to diamonds to whatever next.

While recent international efforts - and there have been efforts - have made quantifiable progress in cutting off militants in Central Africa from mining profits and boosting global focus on clean and ethical supply chains, particularly in electronics - things are moving too slowly. 

Capacity and governance limitations may be partly to blame: as the article puts it, “several key components of an international initiative aimed at systematising the global traceability of these "conflict minerals" have yet to be fully set up by the region's governments.” 

Sasha Lezhnev, senior policy analyst with the Enough Project, says “…if Rwanda, Congo and regional states do not take urgent steps to complete the mineral certification process in the next few months, multinational companies may stop purchasing many minerals from the region that cannot credibly be certified as conflict-free."

As AllAfrica underlines, a crucial date in this regard is approaching fast. May 2014 will see the increasingly visible Dodd-Frank Act (which we’ve touched on in other pieces over the last few days) mean that US regulation requires that all US-listed corporations report publicly on the provenance of a list of minerals coming from the Great Lakes region.  And the EU’s currently working on similar legislation.

The certification process has recently hit a bit of a milestone: last week Rwanda issued its first conflict-free certificate, known formally as an International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Mineral Export Certificate (this certificate aims to audit operations at the level of extraction); the DR Congo government’s reportedly about to do the same. But the Enough Project report says the functioning of the certification system isn’t sufficiently robust or transparent. And if it's not robust or transparent it'll be more than ineffective, it'll be counterproductive. Global Witness left the Kimberley process because, in their words, it was not just ineffective but it had "become an accomplice to diamond laundering" [our emphasis]. It would be a shame if these initiatives went the same way.

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