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OECD monitoring system to prevent armed groups benefiting from Great Lakes' minerals.

Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00

PRESSURE is being applied to non-ferrous metal mining companies to follow an Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) code of practice that prevents them fuelling armed conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Its countries have been witness to come of the worst human rights abuses and violence of the last 50 years: the genocide in Rwanda and the bloody civil war of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). And mining and metal companies that extract, process and export tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold, and their ores in the region have been criticised for turning a blind eye to armed groups profiting from their work.

The UN has investigated the problem. And now the OECD has drafted a system to make sure non-ferrous metal and other mineral companies keep tabs on their exposure to rebel groups: a code named 'Due Diligence for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas'.

It is a practical system that commits companies to avoiding association with local armed groups, preventing money laundering and bribery, and also ensuring taxes and fees are properly paid to the local legitimate government. It clarifies how companies can identify and better manage risks throughout their mineral supply chain, from local exporters and mineral processors to manufacturing and brand-name customers.

Last week, meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, ministers from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)--an intergovernmental body--agreed to forward this OECD guidance to their heads of state, who will meet at a special summit in the DRC on November 19. "The OECD guidance offers a concrete response for ongoing corporate engagement in the region," said Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's special envoy to the Great Lakes region.

Private sector participants at the Nairobi meeting, including Ford Motor Company, Intel and Motorola, also promised to implement the OECD system, with Ford calling on the USA's Securities and Exchange Commission to use it when drafting upcoming annual reporting requirements regarding conflict areas for listed companies.

"We very much hope that the Securities and Exchange Commission will look to this guidance for determining reliable due diligence measures," said Ford's supply chain sustainability global manager Monique Oxender.

The central African region has been a particularly sensitive nexus of civil conflict and valuable minerals, with rare materials such as casserite (used in laptops), coltan (mobile phones) and wolframite (light bulbs) being mined, and much smuggled abroad.

Tantalum has been a particular focus of controversy, with Commerce Resources president and director David Hodge recently advising companies consuming tantalum to buy the mineral when it is still in the ground. This would enable them to control its production and cut the smugglers out of the market, along with the armed groups that feed off their incomes.

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Author:Nuthall, Keith
Publication:International News
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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