Conflict minerals

Gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten, otherwise known as the 3TG minerals, have in recent years been classified as ‘conflict minerals’. Although experts are divided on what proportion of the total global consumption is sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the belief that the conflicts in the country’s resource-rich eastern provinces have been perpetuated by the income generated from the illicit trade in these minerals has brought together a broad coalition of interests linked by a common objective: to regulate ‘conflict minerals’ which is explored in a comprehensive report just released by Chatham House titled ‘Conflict Minerals: The search for a normative framework’.

The link between the armed conflicts in the DRC and illegal mineral extraction was first raised as a matter warranting the attention of the UN Security Council over a decade ago when it noted with concern ‘reports of the illegal exploitation of the country’s assets and potential consequences of these actions on security conditions and the continuation of hostilities’.

That the regulation of the mineral sector would stem the financing of rebel groups and thereby decrease the capacity of such groups to wage armed conflict has been the basis for the introduction of a range of measures and pilot projects at international, regional and national level.

The Security Council’s engagement with this topic has not been a smooth one. Moreover, the measures it has adopted to delink the illicit trade in minerals from the armed conflicts have had mixed results. In its 2011 final report, the UN Group of Experts on the DRC noted that while the level of ‘conflict financing’ appeared to have decreased, a greater proportion of trade had become ‘criminalized’ and there was still a troubling ‘continued strong involvement [in the sector] by military and/or armed groups’ in the eastern provinces.

Many of the conflict mineral measures introduced in recent years are ostensibly non-binding in nature; in other words, they are intended to provide direction and guidance only. More recently, however, there has been a growing trend to adopt measures with binding legal force.

For example, at the international level, Security Council resolutions 1857 (2008) and 1952 (2010) have potential legal consequences for individuals or entities that come under the purview of the UN Sanctions Committee on the DRC. At the regional level, the DRC, and its regional partners are Parties to the Protocol on the Fight against Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and, consequently, initiatives introduced under this framework have the capacity to be legally binding. At the national level, legislation which directly implicates conflict minerals has been introduced in the United States and
in the DRC itself. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre.
For full report please see: http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/International%20Law/0912pparimatsu_mistry.pdf

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