News Picks : US attempts to regulate import of “conflict minerals”
New Scientist: As part of a global effort to crack down on the import of certain metals from conflict-ridden areas, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has begun to require companies to publicly disclose their use of such “conflict resources.” What have come to be called the 3TG metals—tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold—are used by the electronics industry for the manufacture of microchips, semiconductors, and circuit boards. However, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries where such minerals are plentiful, mining is often done under deplorable working conditions, and the profits go to fuel the various warring militia groups ravaging the region. The SEC now requires some 1200 US-listed companies to report annually whether the ore they use came from conflict-free mines certified by the DRC government. However, as of 31 May, when the first reports were due, most companies claimed their ore was “DRC conflict indeterminable.” Policing the mines has proven difficult and some companies have claimed that having to declare their mineral source is a breach of their free speech. Still, the movement to minimize the use of such conflict minerals is growing worldwide; the European Union and China are preparing to adopt guidelines soon.