When it comes to conflict minerals and the need for rules and regulations, the most widely known and controversial regulation is Dodd Frank. This is currently the biggest regulation to discuss, when considering what is being done about conflict minerals right now.
In 2010, The United States passed legislation called the Dodd-Frank Act. Sections 1502/1504 of Dodd-Frank aimed to cut funding to Congolese warlords by discouraging electronics manufacturers from sourcing 3TG minerals from the region. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016) Dodd Frank meant that publicly traded companies registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to trace and report the origin of minerals, whether they are receiving 3TG resources from the DRC (or adjoining countries), and if those minerals are connected to conflict in the region. May 2014 saw companies file their first disclosures. Dodd Frank did not outright ban the purchasing of DRC conflict minerals, it only made it necessary to report supply chains. However, the simplest way for companies to appear conflict free was to in fact stop purchasing from the DRC. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016)
Dodd Frank, according to advocates, was going to be the beginning of the end of the conflict in the Congo. One of these advocates was The Enough Project.
The Enough Project is a large non-profit organisation, and campaigns for a conflict- free DRC. Their 2015/2016 status report/field research in the eastern DRC found that there had been positive advances in The Congo. For example, increased security in mining areas for civilians, significant reductions in armed groups’ control, improved health and safety standards for miners, and implementation of a DRC run system assessing mines and minerals. (The enough project 2016 status report). It is important to note that The Enough Project were the main campaigners who promoted the need for conflict mineral legislation. Therefore, the legitimacy behind their findings are questionable, they will want their campaign to look successful.
However, Dodd Frank has not necessarily solved issues within the DRC, as shown by a Fault Lines investigation published in 2016.
Mineral fraud and smuggling is still taking place in the DRC and surrounding countries, such as the selling of electronic tracing tags to illegal sellers, which are supposed to be used to regulate the transport of conflict-free minerals. This is due to corruption at both the local and governmental level. This reflects one of the major issues with the Dodd Frank sections 1502/1504, that “ultimately, the solution to Congo’s problems will not come from the private sector.” The private sector (companies) can move their business elsewhere, or even begin to track their supply chain better, but this is not solving issues within the Congolese mining industry. If the Congolese workers and governments doing the tracking of minerals are corrupt, then conflict minerals will continue to be circulated.
Section 1502’s has had a horrific effect on Congolese miners working life. Congolese miners normally work under terrible conditions for little pay and few/no working rights, however, it is often the only opportunity for paid employment. There are rarely any alternatives. (Seay, 2012) Section 1502 has inadvertently put mining communities out of work, due to the expense and regulations of tracing supply chains, and mine sites being shut down due to not meeting standards. On the one hand, it is a good thing people are not suffering in these conditions. However, many have no employment at all now, or have turned to smuggling.
“As the 2011 Final Report of the UN Group of Experts on Congo notes, the de facto ban has led to an increase in conflict mineral smuggling via Rwanda” (Seay, 2012)
Seay (2012) also notes that Congolese armed groups continue to target local communities for food, money, and alternate resources such as timber. Dodd Frank may have reduced the number of conflict mineral sites, and may have reduced the (reported) number of conflict minerals being transported, but it has not solved the issue of conflict minerals in the DRC completely.
Dodd Frank was seen as a big move at the time. So yes, Dodd Frank isn’t all bad, regulation is great, but Dodd Frank is flawed. That it seen in the consequences described above, and therefore it is clear that regulation needs to be reconsidered and rewritten when it is not working; to develop and increase its positive impact.
Manhart and Schleicher (2013) wrote recommendations to the powers in Europe, showing how more is needed than just regulation.
“European industry and businesses should take a proactive role by supporting, developing and expanding responsible sourcing projects in the eastern DR Congo. Apart from direct support for on-the-ground projects, commitments to purchase a defined quantity of conflict free material from the DR Congo should also be explored. These activities should be bundled into a Congo stewardship initiative, which – presupposing an ambitious character and measurable targets – should be substantially supported by the European Union.”
The lesson that needs to be learnt from Dodd Frank is that regulation is not enough. The Congo need support also. On the ground; to help eradicate corruption on a large level. This needs to be considered by regulators around the world.