Canadian Agri-Business Linked to Moroccan Conflict Mineral – by Mitchell Anderson ( – October 14, 2013)

Agrium’s import of phosphate from occupied Western Sahara raises serious legal, ethical questions. Steaming towards Vancouver is a freighter holding almost $10 million of phosphate rock from Western Sahara — a region that has been militarily occupied by Morocco since 1975.

When the load arrives around Oct. 24 at Neptune Bulk Terminals in North Vancouver, it could be the first import of conflict minerals coming directly into Canada since the apartheid era in South Africa.

Plight of the Saharawi people

Calgary-based Agrium is the owner of the 60,000 tonnes of phosphate rock aboard the freighter Ultra Bellambi and has entered into an agreement with Moroccan state-owned company OCP to import one million tonnes each year until 2020. Agrium confirmed to The Tyee that at least some of this material is being sourced from Western Sahara.

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NEWS RELEASE: Ensuring a balanced and informed debate on conflict minerals: Global Witness’s response to Tim Worstall’s 23rd September piece on

30th September 2013

Last week, published a piece by Tim Worstall in which he argued against the introduction of legally binding measures in the EU to tackle conflict minerals. The piece, titled ‘Global Witness’ Latest Silly Suggestion on Conflict Minerals’ argued for a voluntary industry-led scheme and suggested that the cost to business of implementing legally binding measures will be too onerous. Sadly, didn’t want to publish a separate article to present a different opinion to this one-sided piece. As such, we are publishing our full response below.

We need an informed debate to break the links between natural resources and conflict, not unhelpful rhetoric.

Right now, some of the world’s most brutal conflicts and human rights abuses are being funded by internationally-traded minerals and gems that enter the European market. Armed groups and violent security forces profit from the control of mines and trading routes in places like eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia, Burma, Zimbabwe and Central African Republic (CAR). Companies that list on our global markets buy these resources, often without regard for whether they are funding harm.

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Blood diamonds and do-gooders – by Dustin Benton (New Statesman – September 26, 2013)

Tim Worstall on conflict minerals – good economics, bad politics.

Earlier this week, Global Witness, the organisation behind restrictions on blood diamonds, called for an EU law to restrict the use of conflict minerals. This would match a US law, called the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to trace the origin of certain metals through their supply chain to ensure they don’t come from known conflict zones.

To be clear, conflict minerals are both horrible and, unfortunately, in most of our electronics. Few would defend them, but the call for a new law was immediately met by criticism. “There are times when the actions of do-gooders makes [sic] me want to kneel down and weep bitter tears of pain,” exclaimed Tim Worstall in Forbes, who wrote a riposte to the call for the new law.

This isn’t because Worstall supports conflict minerals – he doesn’t – but because he thinks that we can prevent conflict minerals from being used for 300-400 times less money. Fundamentally, this is a debate about how best to create supply chain transparency, an essential component of resource resilience.

In essence, Worstall’s solution is to regulate smelters rather than manufacturers. Because the mineral ores used to create metals have a unique “fingerprint”, they can be tested prior to smelting to ensure the fingerprint doesn’t match that of mines from known conflict areas.

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Global Witness’ Latest Silly Suggestion About Conflict Minerals – by Tim Worstall (Forbes Magazine – September 24, 2013)

There are times when the actions of do-gooders makes me want to kneel down and weep bitter tears of pain. One such is the latest proposal from Global Witness on the subject of conflict minerals. They’ve decided that one particular program, one massively expensive and destructive of human wealth, should not be curtailed, adjusted or made more efficient: no, they’ve decided that it should be expanded. Forgive me for having rather strong views on this but it’s all happening in a corner of my working world and I can see what they’re doing wrong.

The background is over the use of conflict minerals in the supply chain. Conflict minerals are those coming from war torn areas of the world and it’s most certainly true that we’d like everyone to stop using minerals mined using slave labour, rape to keep people in line, minerals where the profits go to feed the armed gangs that control those mining areas. I agree with this aim and desire: it’s the methods proposed to achieve this goal that are so dire that they cause that pain in me.

For the latest suggestion is that the European Union should bring in regulations similar to those in Dodd Frank. This would require all companies to investigate their supply chains and thus check on whether they, or any of their suppliers, are using said conflict minerals. The problem with this being that this is a vastly expensive method of reaching this mutually desired goal.

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Conflict Minerals: The Price of Precious – by Jeffrey Gettleman (National Geographic – October 2013)

The minerals in our electronic devices have bankrolled unspeakable violence in the Congo.

The first child soldier pops out of the bush clutching an AK-47 assault rifle in one hand and a handful of fresh marijuana buds in the other. The kid, probably 14 or 15, has this big, goofy, mischievous grin on his face, like he’s just stolen something—which he probably has—and he’s wearing a ladies’ wig with fake braids dangling down to his shoulders.

Within seconds his posse materializes from the thick, green leaves all around us, about ten other heavily armed youngsters dressed in ratty camouflage and filthy T-shirts, dropping down from the sides of the jungle and blocking the red dirt road in front of us. Our little Toyota truck is suddenly swarmed and immobilized by a four-and-a-half-foot-tall army.

This is on the road to Bavi, a rebel-controlled gold mine on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s wild eastern edge. Congo is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country and one of its richest on paper, with an embarrassment of diamonds, gold, cobalt, copper, tin, tantalum, you name it—trillions’ worth of natural resources. But because of never ending war, it is one of the poorest and most traumatized nations in the world.

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How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan – by Michael Smith (Bloomberg Market Magazine – August 8, 2013)

It’s a sweltering day in March, and Javier Garcia slogs through the dense undergrowth in a remote stretch of the Amazon jungle in southeastern Colombia.

He and a friend have hiked all day toward their goal, a mining site 100 kilometers from the nearest town. As the men hack through the thorny brush with machetes, following a narrow, muddy path, Garcia stops in his tracks.

Centimeters away, a venomous snake called four-noses coils up, poised to attack. Garcia says he will be dead within an hour if the pit viper strikes. His friend grabs a long stick and carefully flips the snake into the jungle. They move on, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its September issue.

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Fostering awareness of the origins of minerals – by Terry Pender (Waterloo Record – July 29, 2013)

WATERLOO REGION — Kirsten Van Houten is helping people make the links between their smartphones and the brutal war ravaging the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Van Houten is collecting signatures in support of the Just Minerals Campaign — a national effort to raise awareness of minerals that are mined in Africa and used in cellphones and computers. So far, she has collected more than 100 signatures.

The minerals are tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold. Van Houten and the Just Minerals Campaign are concerned about the supply chains for tech companies that start in Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Congo.

The Just Minerals Campaign is in support of New Democratic MP Paul Dewar’s private member’s bill called the Conflict Minerals Act. It is modelled on U.S. legislation that will require all companies to publicly report on the source of minerals used their products.

“We would like to indicate there is support in this community,” Van Houten said. “We would also like to create consumer awareness and create demand for a fair trade cellphone.” The young woman wrote her master’s thesis on the demand for small guns and light weapons in the Congo.

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Conflict mineral policy hurt miners – by Jonathan Cooper (Vancouver Sun – July 22, 2013)

‘Cure-all’ legislation that was meant to improve things, cost millions of jobs

Jonathan Cooper is vice-president of Macdonald Realty Group and has written this commentary as a concerned private citizen.

On July 1, 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank bill, a massive and complex piece of legislation which was designed to avoid a repeat of the 2008 housing bubble collapse and subsequent financial crisis. Buried in the bill’s 2,000-plus pages was Article 1502, the objective of which was considerably removed from the minutiae of credit-default swaps and mortgage finance.

Dodd-Frank Article 1502 (DF 1502) intended to prevent U.S. companies from being involved in the trade of “conflict minerals” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a result of strident lobbying by Hollywood celebrities and non-government agencies (NGO) like The Enough Project, Congress believed that eastern DRC’s immense mineral wealth was fuelling the civil war in that region, a war which has caused as many as five million deaths since its inception in 1998.

In the three years since its passage, DF 1502 has encouraged increased due diligence on the part of both multinationals and the DRC government. However, it has also become an object lesson in the unforeseen consequences of legislative intervention.

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Companies Moving Slow on Conflict Minerals Rule – by Ben DiPietro (Wall Street Journal – July 11, 2013)

Two-thirds of respondents to a new survey say their companies are in the early stages or have not yet started compiling information needed to meet the requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals reporting law that takes effect in May 2014.

One-third of the nearly 900 executives surveyed said they still are trying to figure out if the reporting requirement applies to their businesses, according to the survey released Wednesday by PwC. Less than 5% said their companies have gathered most of the required information from their suppliers and have begun assessing it.

The SEC law mandates companies disclose whether any of their products–including materials provided to them by suppliers–contain tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten that comes from the Republic of Congo region in Africa. The mining of these minerals is believed to be funding armed groups in the region allegedly responsible for labor and human rights abuses.

“I dont think we expected to see this level of companies saying they haven’t really done much yet,” Bobby Kipp, partner in PwC’s risk assurance practice, said. “But I think companies are beginning to realize they can’t wait forever.”

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[Mining] Anti-slavery campaign targets Nintendo for protest day – by Colin Campbell ( – June 19, 2013)

A new campaign has been launched by anti-slavery organization Walk Free that aims to persuade Nintendo to tighten up its supply chain and avoid the use of ‘conflict minerals’ mined by slave labor.

Walk Free has launched a video lampooning Nintendo characters Mario and Luigi, which states that Nintendo has yet to respond to a forceful campaign to join an electronics industry audit program for conflict-free mineral supplies. The video points out that minerals sourced from some suppliers come from slavery operations in conflict regions, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where miners are often forced to work at gunpoint.

Walk Free’s website states that the campaign aims to tell Nintendo that “slavery is not a game.” It adds, “We’ve sent 430,558 emails calling on Nintendo to take concrete steps to ensure slave-mined conflict minerals are not in its gaming consoles, and we have heard nothing back.”

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