NDP to introduce federal bill on conflict minerals – by Iain Marlow (Globe and Mail – March 25, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

The NDP is about to reintroduce legislation designed to ensure Canadian companies are not using conflict minerals in their supply chain – and that consumers can be certain their smartphones and other electronics are free of minerals fuelling violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On Tuesday, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar will again table legislation that aims to have corporations and subsidiaries operating in Canada report annually to the government about their supply chains. This would inject transparency and due diligence into an industry where complicated global supply chains (that stretch into lawless conflict zones) and myriad smelters (often operating with little regulatory oversight) have allowed some multinationals to claim ignorance of ties to one of the world’s worst conflicts, in which an estimated five million have lost their lives.

If Mr. Dewar succeeds in gaining momentum for the bill – after having a previous conflict minerals bill die on the order paper ahead of the 2011 federal election – the use of minerals such as “gold, cassiterite, wolframite and coltan and their derivatives, such as tin, tungsten and tantalum” from countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa could earn corporations the type of consumer scorn previously heaped on purveyors of “blood diamonds” and users of sweatshops.

Mr. Dewar compared the resource-fuelled violence by militias and other non-state actors in the vast central African country to brutality there during the Congo Free State under Belgian colonial administrators, and said he hoped to spur various industry, government and civil society actors to collaborate and implement guidelines painstakingly researched by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“The only difference between what was happening in the Belgian Congo and now are the technologies and the actors,” Mr. Dewar said. “In some cases, things have gotten worse – because we have human rights legislation and protection that is available that wasn’t around when King Leopold was doing his exploitation.”

Various industries use these minerals – which go into capacitors that handle electric charges – including defence contractors, aerospace companies and the automotive industry. But consumer-facing electronics companies such as Research In Motion Ltd. and Phillips, which could face consumer backlash, have already joined with other companies and non-governmental organizations to work on ways to ensure supply chains remain free of minerals that lead to grave human rights violations in certain parts of the Congo and elsewhere.

Spurred mainly by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in the United States, which contains a clause on conflict minerals and is backed by the powerful U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, many affected companies publicly listed in the U.S. are now part of projects on the ground ranging from physical and digital “bag and tag” efforts that attempt to trace minerals from mine to smelters and beyond, as well as regional certification programs that are quickly being rolled into countries’ legal frameworks.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/tech-news/ndp-to-introduce-federal-bill-on-conflict-minerals/article10319230/

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