MP Paul Dewar’s Conflict Minerals Act would require Canadian companies that utilize specific minerals (gold, cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, or any of their derivatives, such as tin, tungsten, and tantalum) originating in the Great Lakes Region of Africa (which includes the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbours) to exercise internationally recognized due diligence standards to ensure that these minerals do not directly or indirectly contribute to fueling conflict and funding groups engaged in human rights abuses.
Internationally recognized due diligence standards, as set by the Organization for Economic Co-oparation and Dvelopment (OECD) include:
- Establishing strong company management systems
- Undertaking risk assessment
- Engaging in risk mitigation
- Contracting third-party independent audits
As an initial step, companies will have to identify whether any of the designated minerals or products containing designated minerals that they use derive from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. This is important because even though conflict minerals are critically important sources of revenue for rebel groups, trade in designated minerals from this region constitutes a relatively small share of the global market for these minerals. Brazil and Australia have the world’s largest tantalum deposits by a considerable margin, while China dominates the world’s tungsten supply, and Indonesia leads in world tin exports. The top gold producers are China, Australia, the United States, and Russia. As such, many companies do not use minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa; for these companies, nothing further is required. Any companies that determine from this initial inquiry that they either do use designated minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa or cannot determine from where the designated minerals that they use derive then have to take further steps.
First, they must develop a plan for undertaking due diligence. Second, they must implement this plan to assess how high the risk is that they are utilizing conflict minerals. Third, they must take steps to reduce this risk. Fourth, they must hire an independent third-party auditor to verify each of these steps. Fifth, they must produce and publish an annual report including all of this information. These are relatively simple steps that set reasonable standards to which companies should be held.