Briefing Document / Oct. 15, 2010

Submission to the US Securities and Exchange Commission on conflict minerals

In July 2010 the U.S. Senate passed a groundbreaking law that promotes greater public oversight of companies trading in oil, gas and minerals. The Dodd-Frank Act sets out to stem the flow of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by requiring companies whose products contain tin, tantalum and tungsten ores, as well as gold, to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whether they are sourcing these minerals from DRC or adjoining countries. It stipulates that those companies which are sourcing from the Great Lakes Region should detail the measures taken to avoid purchasing minerals which have benefited armed groups in DRC.

The passage of the law is a major milestone, but the next stage is crucial to its effectiveness in practice. Some of the provisions it sets out are a framework for more specific regulation which has yet to be developed. In particular, the SEC needs to produce regulations setting out what kind of supply chain due diligence companies will need to undertake and how this should be audited. Global Witness is advocating that the SEC adopt the five point framework for due diligence endorsed by the UN Group of Experts and the OECD, and insist on rigorous third party audits that include spot checks on the supply chain of the company concerned. This submission to the SEC lays out these recommendations in full.