the DRC minerals mess
Jason Stearns has a must-read interview with Congolese civil society leader and mining expert Eric Kajemba on the effects of the Dodd-Frank Act, Enough and Global Witness, and the de facto ban on Congolese minerals that has developed as a result of their efforts. Kajemba:
The motivation behind the law is very good - to impose transparency. But it the implementation has been the problem. We are not in a country with a functioning government, you cannot just assume that certification and due diligence can spring up overnight. Plus, there were efforts under way already by other actors to impose transparency; ironically, the Dodd-Frank law slowed these efforts down, as they were financed by the minerals tradeOne of the most frightening effects of the Dodd-Frank legislation is the chaos that it has created in sectors of the economy not at all related to the conflict mineral trade. Kajemba:
But there have been other consequences as well, for example, with other aspects of the local economy. For example, in places like Shabunda, people relied on planes to bring them goods and merchandise - rice, sugar, and so on. Those same planes then left with minerals back to Bukavu. But now that the planes cannot transport minerals [due to the export ban and embargo] they don't fly there with goods any more. So the impact has been huge in many areas.Aside from Congolese who now have no access to critical staples like rice and sugar, Dodd-Frank has also created a host of problems in DRC's legitimate mining sector - non-militarized mines in non-conflict areas. Mark Drajem, Jessie Hamilton, and Michael Kavanaugh write in Business Week:
Loch traveled with Katanga’s local mining minister to certify that tantalum from the mine that Motorola Solutions, a maker of communications equipment for governments and businesses, wants to purchase was in no way connected to the Congo’s armed conflict. Production at the mine had all but stopped, idling workers who dig for ore with hand tools. “This was a non-conflict mine in a non-conflict area, but it was being harmed by the U.S. legislation,” Loch says.They further note that, "Congolese mineral exports are down 90 percent due to a new rule requiring U.S. companies to avoid indirectly financing rebel groups."
John Prendergast, The Enough Project, and Global Witness are directly responsible for this completely predictable havoc, as are the American legislators and industry personnel who took their testimony as gospel, let them write section 1502 of the legislation, and ignored dissenting voices in the debate over the minerals. We now have a situation in which the already tenuous economy of the eastern DRC is further deteriorating. Ordinary Congolese are suffering far more than the militias at whom this legislation was targeted. And I, for one, would like to know what the people who caused this problem are going to do about it.