By Priya Ramesh, Policy Director, and
Kristen Pue, Advocacy Director
Should it ascend to law, the Conflict Minerals Act would affect several groups in the following ways.
The Democratic Republic of Congo: Often, minerals in the DRC are extracted by local citizens in illegal mines controlled and taxed by armed groups. Minerals that are mined, traded, and moved under such conditions are sold into the global minerals marketplace and find their way into the products Canadian consumers purchase. The Conflict Minerals Act will make financing war in the DRC more difficult.
Canada: First and foremost, the bill would contribute to improving the conflict situation in the region by focusing on a key driver in the cycle of mass atrocities while also reflecting fundamental Canadian values of peace, stability, and security. Canada would continue to be a leader in international human rights by encouraging our businesses to adhere to human rights standards abroad.
Canadian mining companies: The bill encourages Canadian companies to establish frameworks for tracing supply chains through due diligence requirements and enhance transparency through disclosure requirements. By requiring that companies trace their supply chains and publish this information, Canadian mining companies must commit to a degree of transparency in their operations in the Great Lakes Regions. However, no enforcement mechanism is stipulated in the bill.
Canadian consumers: This bill will circumvent the flow of illegally produced minerals into our products and allow them to be aware of the type of minerals going into their goods.
Strengths of the bill
The Conflict Minerals Act is firmly rooted in internationally recognized due diligence standards, maintains a holistic approach to enhancing transparency and establishes clear expectations for companies. For these reasons, STAND views the Conflict Minerals Act as an important first-step for Canada in curtailing trade in conflict minerals.
Transparency: Transparency is established through annual reporting; when a company comes into contact with a designated mineral in any manner, a full public report with detailed accounts of all activities surrounding its use is required. This will allow Canadian consumers to know whether their purchases are perpetuating conflict in the DRC.
Holistic Approach: The Conflict Minerals Act applies to Canadian companies that engage with designated minerals from their extraction to the sale of a final product. A wide net needs to be cast so that primary and secondary players involved in minerals trade, manufacturing, etc. are monitored in order to tackle the conflict minerals problem. This is particularly necessary because many products containing designated minerals, such as electronics and airplanes, are manufactured globally; approaching only one link in the supply chain would unduly narrow the range of products that the legislation addresses, leaving room for conflict mineral sales to continue.
Internationally-recognized Standards: The Conflict Minerals Act closely follows the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (OECD DDG), which was developed through a multi-stakeholder process engaging governments, industry, civil society, and the United Nations. The OECD DDG constitutes a practical approach to implementing due diligence for conflict minerals, as has been confirmed by the final report of the OECD DDG pilot implementation project, and is the centrepiece of international efforts to curtail the trade in conflict minerals.
Clear Guidelines: The Conflict Minerals Act identifies the core issue, details existing standards with which Canadian companies comply, establishes clear definitions of key terms, and sets-up a demand for due diligence all companies must exercise with instructions on how it must be done.