As featured on the Dipnote Blog

Maria Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and Robert Hormats serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs.

Gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum. These four metals are everywhere — in our smart phones, laptops, ball point pens, and light bulbs — but we don’t often pause to think about where they originate. Often these minerals are mined from the vast natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and hundreds of thousands of Congolese depend on their trade to earn a living. But tragically, violent armed groups exploit and hijack this trade, using forced labor to profit from it and sometimes killing to control it. So production and trade that could be drivers of economic development instead fuel violence and instability and harm innocent Congolese.

The Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade, which we launch today at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, DC, seeks to help break the links between conflict and these resources. This new alliance brings together the U.S. government, almost 20 internationally-listed high-tech and automotive companies, four industry associations and six non-governmental organizations, as well as the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, to respond practically to the challenges posed by conflict minerals. And we’re actively working to expand this alliance to include even more partners and supporters.

Through a range of tools developed by a multi-stakeholder governance group, the PPA will take important steps toward securing legitimate, conflict-free minerals from the DRC. We will do so by supporting pilot programs — with the ultimate goal of producing scalable, self-sustaining systems — to demonstrate a fully traced and validated supply chain in a way that is credible to companies, civil society, and government. The PPA will also be a hub for those seeking information and ways to take action on responsible minerals trade

The PPA builds on the intent of section 1502 of last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation that seeks to end the cycle of conflict minerals. The law requires companies that are publicly traded in the United States to disclose the steps they’re taking to purchase conflict-free gold, tin, tungsten, or tantalum from the DRC or its neighboring countries. This kind of corporate due diligence — now required by the DRC government and endorsed throughout the region — will strengthen local efforts to regulate the trade and weaken a key driver of eastern Congo’s horrific violence. While compliance with this disclosure requirement may be challenging given the complexity of the minerals supply chain, the U.S. government is working with a range of regional and local stakeholders to support the implementation of tools that can trace and certify the minerals trade as conflict-free.

Why are we taking these steps? Because excluding armed groups from the trade in minerals is good business for consumers, companies, the Congo, and the Great Lakes Region. But we also do this because it’s very much the right thing to do for the people of Central Africa. Weakening the rebel groups and abusive armed forces that benefit from the illegal trade will help create a more peaceful and stable region. And, we all should be feel better knowing that the everyday objects which end up in our pockets, homes, and offices don’t contribute to a cycle of violence for the people of the DRC.

Together, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs María Otero and Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats, continue their efforts working with others in our government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and regional governments to respond to the Secretary’s call to address the issue of conflict minerals.

Learn more about the launch of the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade on the USIP website.