A recent study by Chatham House titled ‘Conflict Minerals: The Search for a Normative Framework’ has raised interesting questions for jewellers who are concerned about conflict mineral trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At a lunchtime event held at Chatham House on Friday 21st September as part of the think tank’s project on conflict minerals, representatives from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) outlined industry efforts to curb conflict mineral trade. Various stakeholders attended the event, from jewellery industry professionals, to international NGOs, security consultants and government officials.
The event was a positive example of how the industry led efforts have been instrumental in the formation of various supply chain initiatives to curb conflict mineral trade in the Great Lakes regions. Efforts by the tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold industries to prevent conflict minerals entering the legitimate supply chain have been positive and demonstrate the importance of industry co-operation.
Earlier this year, the OECD published its Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas which has been immensely useful in its recommendations for mining companies. The guidelines have laid the foundations for companies to begin to move towards transparent and ethical supply chains and will be a key tool for industry stakeholders who are concerned about their supply chain.
Whilst the event was extremely positive, it did raise the question about where efforts to curb conflict mineral trade should go from here. Whilst the OECD guidelines have laid the important foundations for due diligence in the mining industry, implementation will be an uphill battle. US-based companies continue to be wary of committing to guidelines until the conditions of the Dodd-Frank Act conflict minerals provision are confirmed. This could delay implementation of responsible supply chains in the mining industry and allow conflict mineral trade to fester in the face of renewed violence in the DRC. Without further guidance from governments and intergovernmental organisations, industry led efforts could prove limited and lacking the necessary scope to curb conflict mineral trade entirely.