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Conflict minerals: Congo communities say support Dodd-Frank

October 26, 2011

Click for more information on OECD Due Diligence Guidance and the text itself

On October 10th, we published an article from US businessman Chuck Blakeman criticising the Dodd-Frank Act’s section on conflict minerals, saying it was against the interests of the people of the DR Congo. Today, we publish a reply from Prince Kihangi Kyamwami, Secretary-General of  BEDEWA, the agency in charge of development in the Walikale region of the DRC, supporting Dodd-Frank.

Everybody seems to think (mistakenly) that they can say: “I’ve been to the Congo and met the local communities. These communities live mainly by exploiting minerals. Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act affects their means of living, and the economic stability of the region is threatened by a de facto ban. This law deprives thousands of people of their livelihood, etc.”

To be frank, this simplistic view is irritating. People who share it shouldn’t believe they’re helping us. On the contrary, they’re destroying us and working against the interests of Walikale. Have they really met local communities, or are they just interested in the minerals and, given the difficulty in getting to the communities, limited themselves to talking to city-based mining interests? Interests that will exploit such talk in their own interests to make official declarations that engage local communities for no reason at all.

Anybody claiming to defend a people should first get to know that people – its history, culture, way of life – and know where to find it. Otherwise, you’re only mocking this people. Experience has shown how tricksters pass themselves off as the people’s champion. They show the world the people’s misery and highlight the need to improve its well-being. But at the end of the day, you realise they’re looking after their own interests.

Who can seriously claim that before the mining sector was liberalised, Walikale’s population went hungry? Mineral resources aren’t Walikale’s only source of wealth: it also has vast tracts of very rich farmland. It’s a territory made for agriculture .

Before 1985, Walikale had numerous pasturelands. Apart from abundant rice crops, there were also many plantations producing high quality coffee, cocoa, plantains and maize, to name only the main cash crops, as well as market gardening, vegetables and palm oil.

These haven’t all disappeared, and the population won’t starve just because mining has been suspended. Artisanal miners with no plots of land complain about mining being stopped, not the local communities.

As everyone knows, over the past decade, the great powers, dictators, private firms, criminal networks and rebel forces have ruthlessly exploited our wealth, plunging most of the population into extreme poverty. The profits from mining haven’t helped local development or local communities. These minerals were exploited with nothing given back in return. Taxes and state levies rarely if ever reach the local community. This windfall didn’t go unnoticed by the DRC’s neighbours, who helped themselves.

These minerals don’t just create conflicts and wars, they help to sustain them, with armed groups fighting for control of mining areas, as happened in Kaseke in July 2011, when a large share of the population had to flee fighting between two groups. We suffer more from having to watch passively how our minerals are exploited than from leaving them buried for the good of future generations.

Mineral resources are by definition non-renewable, making it urgent to find solutions for the harmonious, viable and sustainable development of the mining sector. And Walikale is ready to support the suspension of mining activities for another five years to help reform the sector.

To this end, Walikale’s local communities renew their support to national indicatives (ITIE/RDC, Revision of the Congo Mining Law) sub-regional ones (CIRGL) and those at international level (ITRI/OECD). And in particular, we reaffirm our support for Section 1502 of the July 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, because it marks a break. It contributed to implementing solutions allowing for the traceability of resources from the mine to the point of export in view of local development.

The communities are therefore placing all their hopes in this law. Thanks to this law, they stand to benefit from their natural resources one day. As well as that, this law intends to cut the link between trade in these minerals and the conflicts that bring grief to the people of the Congo daily. Walikale’s local communities there call for the application without further delay of the regulations based on the Dodd-frank Act concerning conflict minerals. This is what we need now.

Desirable economic transformation of this wealth requires good governance, transparency and a stable socio-political climate. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that this natural mineral wealth is exploited in the most beneficial, efficient and best way. The state must ensure that due diligence in minerals supply is observed and discourage campaigns against the citizens’ interests.

A well-regulated mining sector governed with transparency, and well organised and supported  can help lift the Congo’s people out of extreme poverty, restore public finances to help the state function properly, and contribute to regional and international development, as is the case for many other countries in the world.

Useful links

The above is a translation. The original article in French is here

OECD work on due diligence concerning conflict minerals

Transcript of remarks by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the adoption ceremony of the Recommendation on Due Diligence Guidance on 25 May 2011

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

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