Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signs the Maryland State Procurement and Congo Conflict Minerals Bill into law (Photo credit: Chloe Christman/Enough Project)

Maryland Becomes the Second State to Pass Legislation on Congo Conflict Minerals

Last Thursday, the state of Maryland took a definitive step toward curtailing the use and trade of conflict minerals when Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Maryland State Procurement and Congo Conflict Minerals Bill into law. Maryland is now the second state to adopt legislation. California passed a similar bill in September and Massachusetts is also considering legislation.

Under the new law, which was introduced last January by Delegate Shane Robinson, the State of Maryland is prohibited from doing business with companies that do not comply with federal disclosure requirements on conflict minerals. The federal requirements address the need for greater transparency in product supply chains. Companies must report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the use of any mineral materials from Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring states, and whether or not the procurement of those minerals is in way financing the ongoing violent conflict in the region.

United to End Genocide applauds Delegate Robinson, his colleagues and the people of Maryland for taking a strong stand against the funding of mass atrocities through the trading of conflict minerals.

What are Conflict Minerals?

The Democratic Republic of Congo is an extremely mineral rich country that includes deposits of gold and the ores used to produce tin, tantalum and tungsten (commonly used to create important components of popular electronic products such as cell phones, mp3 players and tablet computers). However, the profits from the mining and sale of minerals are rarely invested back into the communities from which they are mined. Instead, the sale of these minerals serves to fund various armed groups responsible for the ongoing violent conflict and mass human rights violations that have plagued Eastern Congo since the mid 1990s.

Delays Hamper Implementation of Federal Disclosure Requirements

The passage of the conflict mineral bill in Maryland is a strong show for the federal conflict mineral legislation. Although Dodd-Frank passed in 2010, many of the bill’s provisions have been highly criticized by some corporations, politicians and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as too costly and difficult to implement. The SEC, which is responsible for releasing the rules that would allow the provision to be implemented, has massively delayed the process. The delay has been a source of frustration for human rights activists, who closely follow the ongoing atrocities in Congo and are worried that the final rules of the provision may be watered down. Concerns over the perceived cost and consequences of the federal conflict minerals measure (known as Section 1502) will be the topic of debate at a Congressional hearing on May 10.

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