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Senate Committee Evaluates Progress and Challenges for Conflict Minerals

On April 5, I had the privilege of testifying before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to detail the tech industry’s policies, commitments, and achievements in driving responsible minerals sourcing throughout our global supply chains. It was the first hearing of the year for the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, and lawmakers chose this convening to discuss conflict minerals and review the impacts of section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

Section 1502 requires publicly traded companies to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whether they source specific minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries. Tantalum, tin, gold, and tungsten are often referred to as “conflict minerals” because they may be mined in the war-torn part of Central Africa. Numerous and diverse industries from electronics, automotive and aerospace, to apparel, appliances and even food packaging, use these minerals in their products.

In my testimony, I acknowledged the defined role the private sector can play in helping drive supply chain transparency efforts. Our industry has helped realize concrete accomplishments in bringing responsible economic development to the impacted countries through efforts like the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative and the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade.

ITI also emphasized the importance of maintaining strong U.S. leadership on minerals sourcing to guard against unwelcome consequences in Central Africa and in other geographies, and to further advance initiatives that foster stability and expand responsible sourcing. We cautioned that any interruption in U.S. leadership could threaten the fragile gains we have achieved for the people of the impacted region, or lead to inconsistent conflict minerals regimes.

Specifically, I stressed the critical leading role that governments must play to advance peace, security, and governance in Central Africa. I noted that the geo-political challenges in the region “are so severe, enduring and complex that only concerted actions by regional governments, coupled with ongoing support from the international community, will resolve them.” For our efforts to be effective, governments must enable the conditions necessary to allow supporting initiatives from the private sector and civil society to thrive.

During the hearing, lawmakers noted that section 1502 has generated some unintended consequences, and ITI used this opportunity to call for reforms to the law that will increase efficiency and encourage legitimate companies to source responsibly from the region. To help realize these outcomes, the tech industry also encouraged policymakers to promote further uptake of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.

With both Congress and the SEC examining section 1502, it is unclear what the future holds for the provision. What is not likely to change is tech’s commitment to responsible sourcing and our call emphasizing the key responsibilities of governments to secure peace and stability in the troubled region. ITI and our members look forward to continuing to work with governments, civil society, and other sectors to drive towards these desired outcomes.

Public Policy Tags: Environment & Sustainability, Supply Chain Responsibility