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Opinion: US policy on Congo conflict minerals well-intentioned, but misguided

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There was fraud. Even today with the embargo, people export. Fraud has increased considerably.

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.

Do you disagree with the spirit of the Dodd-Frank law?

No. 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 trade.

No, I agree with the law, but it should have been implemented in stages, over two or three years. It was too strict, too abrupt: no tagging, no sale! But there were initiatives like that of the German Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) and the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) – and other initiatives at the local level that may actually have been undermined in the short term by the law.

It is true that there is no official embargo on the Congo today, and that the Dodd-Frank law did not call for such an embargo. But the truth is that as soon as the Conglese export ban was lifted, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) [an electronics industry body] in the United States imposed a de facto embargo. Traders here only had time to sell their stock and then everything stopped again! Now most of the minerals seem to leak out through smuggling. It is the Chinese who are still buying officially, and we think that the rest of the stuff smuggled out might also be going to China.

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