Action Alert: 2019 Minnesota Conflict Minerals Bill
The issue: See this conflict minerals primer that provides a concise, compelling overview of the issue. Further information is provided below. The issue and impacts are huge – so what can we do as a state to make a difference?
The bills: Identical bills have been introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate. See HF1861 (authored by Rep. Nels Pierson, Rep.) and SF 1132 (authored by Senator Sandra Pappas, DFL). The bills prohibit state agencies from procuring supplies or services from persons that fail to disclose federally required information about conflict minerals originating in the DRC or neighboring countries.
First hearing in House committee - passed unanimously: HF 1861 passed unanimously in the House Government Operations Committee on March 11, 2019. Dr. Edwige Mubonzi, co-founder of Mwendo Congo, testified in support of this bill. According to Lisa Nilles, Mwendo Congo leader, “When Dr. Edwige Mubonzi talks, people not only listen, they feel the weight of the opportunity before them.” Dr. Mubonzi’s work in the DRC included reparative surgery for hundreds of female victims of rape, used as a weapon of war in the ongoing conflict fueled in large part by those wanting to control the vast mineral resources in the eastern Congo. Dr. Mubonzi concluded her testimony thus: “With humility and hope, I now urge this committee to support this legislation to help transform blood minerals into minerals for development and peace.”
Our allies: Ellen Kennedy, Executive Director of World Without Genocide, is the lead on these advocacy efforts. She has advocated for conflict-free mineral policies and practices for many years.
1. The bill will next be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee, and is awaiting a first hearing in the Senate Government Finance, Policy and Elections Committee.
2. Watch for Action Alert emails from Mwendo Congo. We often receive short notice of hearings. Show up when you can. Our presence shows lawmakers that Minnesotans care about this issue and want them to act. We will let you know when to contact legislators to voice your support of this bill.
3. Share a link to this webpage with others who may also want to learn and take action.
4. Follow Mwendo Congo’s Facebook page. Like and share posts. Action alerts on the MN legislation will be shared via Facebook as well.
Conflict Minerals 101: Watch this useful 2-minute video for a helpful primer.
Until recent years, the conflict minerals supply chain was a very lucrative scheme for Congo's armed groups and even parts of the Congolese army. But now that's all changing. Check out Enough's updated conflict minerals 101 video and learn about what you can do to continue to hold companies accountable.
As you shop for phones, tablets, laptops, or gaming systems, consider the source of materials in the electronics you purchase. We can make a difference by buying from companies eliminating DRC conflict minerals from their supply chains. This company ranking graph can guide your consumer choices:
You can learn more about the long-standing conflict in the Eastern Congo, what "conflict minerals" are and where they show up in our consumer products. Check out resources from the highly-respected Enough Project.
What are Conflict Minerals?
The Democratic Republic of the Congo may seem far away, but if you reach into your pocket you probably have a piece of the Congo right there with you. Your cell phone, computer, and hearing aids (the list goes on and on) are all made using the mineral Coltan. Eighty percent of the world's supply of coltan in found in the DRC. The value of this mineral mixed with its abundance in the DRC and the weakness of the DRC's central government have created an environment in which militias fight over control of mines, rape women as a tool to control populations, and force children to work in mines.
An artisanal gold mine in the DRC
Coltan is just one of four conflict minerals identified in the DRC, the other three are tin, tungsten, and gold. Rather than enrich the population, the abundance of these resources in the DRC has led to conflict, turmoil, and poverty. At the same time, we all profit from the use of these minerals in our everyday lives. However, our purchases do not need to support the conflict in the DRC. There are laws in place, and initiatives taken by some large company that aim to track minerals from their source of production in order to ensure that they are conflict-free (see sidebar). So buy conflict-free and support these initiatives!
But there is still much work to be done to stop the lucrative trade of conflict minerals. In 2010 the U.S. passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which contained a section requiring companies to report where they sourced their tin, tungsten, tantalum (coltan) and gold from. Though this law has had an impact, companies have found it difficult or been slow to comply. In last years filings, out of more that 1,200 companies, only 24% were in full compliance with the law. But we can have an influence by voting with our dollars to reward companies that have made the best efforts to be conflict free, and we can encourage our friends, communities, schools, companies, cities, and states to commit to buying conflict free.
One of the greatest tragedies that has come of the conflict in the DRC is the silence of the rest of the world. If you have been shocked by what you have learned about the DRC on this website, at one of our presentations, or elsewhere, then tell a friend. Tell all of your friends and tell all of them to tell all of their friends. The first step to action is awareness, and action is the key to change!
Interested in getting involved in our advocacy work? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, contact info, and interests and we’ll be in touch!