Conflict Minerals – What Needs To Happen

Dodd Frank was the first major step in the fight against conflict minerals. On reflection, the DRC needs more than just regulation. Dodd Frank, along with the recently announced EU conflict minerals regulation, offer just that. Dodd Frank and the EU offer the DRC little in terms of actual direct support in the Congo, and without this, conflict will find a way to enter people’s lives. Governments, trade regulators, businesses, and the public need to truly realise the extent of the conflict in the Congo, and realise it is not an easy fix; simply saying it will be regulated is not working.

Seay (2012) gives recommendations, originally for Dodd Frank, but which can be applied again to the new EU announcement. Seay (2012) recommends that immediate assistance should be given to mining communities who have lost their jobs due to the turmoil in the Congolese mining trade. Education, healthcare, living and job help will go a long way for these people, and short term assistance can put them back on track to reduce the likelihood of out-of-work miners turning to illegal smuggling through Rwanda. The EU should take this into account, and openly discuss all the possibilities into making this happen. Big European businesses and the EU commission should work together to help make support in the Congo effective, affordable, and worthwhile. In the long run, it will benefit everyone; those in the Congo would have a sustainable economic livelihood again, and big businesses would live up to their corporate responsibility- pleasing western consumers.

The regulation of conflict minerals, and the auditing and tracing supply chains does not have to be a process which results in Congolese miners being out of work. Western regulators and governments need to work in collaboration with the DRC, directly, in Congo. Therefore, the traceability of minerals can open a wealth of new job creation for the Congolese. (Seay, 2012) Doing this would ensure that the DRC artisanal miners do not lose their income, they would have a legitimate one; whilst also contributing to the end of conflict minerals.

The focus in the western world currently is on advancement of technology. We are advancing at a pace which is unprecedented. However, the very start of this technology – the root, the core, the fundamentals that make it work – are corrupt and systematically failing people. Furthermore, western efforts to regulate the trade are still failing the workers in the DRC.  In a world where advancement is so fast, so many things are possible, and so many great minds can work together, the minerals and regulations of those which make up our tech should not be causing any harm.

The way for this to happen is for communication to happen. People need to talk about this. Too many don’t even realise what is in their iPhones, their androids, their smartwatches. Technology has become invisible, and we are blind to what makes our lives so well connected. However, if discussion, teaching, learning, and spreading of these ideas takes place, then things could change. Ideas will be developed to provide a fair and just system for everyone, especially those in the DRC. Fair trade technology can happen- and should happen.

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