Legislation authored by Senator Sandy Pappas (DFL – St. Paul) that seeks to thwart death and violence in parts of Africa resulting from conflict minerals passed the Senate Floor today. The bill is part of an international effort to end horrific tragedies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring countries caused by fighting over minerals used in electronics including cell phones, laptops, and computer games.
“Passing this legislation is the moral thing to do,” said Sen. Pappas.
“Our insatiable desire for electronics makes us responsible. This is one small step we can take toward enhancing safety for people in the Congo, particularly women and girls, who are the victims of heinous acts of violence.”
The bill creates a state definition for ‘conflict minerals’ as a mineral or its derivative determined under federal law to be financing human conflict. The list of minerals includes coltan, cassiterite, gold, wolframite, and their derivatives. Ninety percent of the world’s coltan – a mineral used to make cell phones vibrate – is found under the ground in northeast Congo.
The bill prohibits any commissioner, head of a state agency, or administrative officer in Minnesota from knowingly procuring supplies or services from a noncompliant person and requires state leaders to provide notice of the requirements against conflict minerals in their solicitation process. A ‘noncompliant person’ is defined as someone who is required to disclose information relating to conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or its neighboring countries.
“Since 1996, more than 6 million people have been killed in the fighting over these minerals,” Sen. Pappas explained. “Government armies, militia groups, and ordinary citizens perpetrate terrible acts of violence to force people off the land. These armed groups then extract and sell the minerals to purchase more weapons and to try to control the area. Technology users around the world unknowingly contribute to this reprehensible violence, so we need to take any and all action to end these human rights abuses.”
In 2010, the US passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. One part of this act, Section 1502, requires that American electronics companies that are publicly traded report their mineral purchases from Congo to the Securities and Exchange Commission. This simple act of transparency in purchasing is helping to reduce the human rights violations in the mining regions.
Two states, California and Maryland, have passed bills requiring that their state electronics purchases come only from companies that are in compliance with Dodd-Frank and this reporting requirement. The City of Edina and the Minnesota State Bar Association have taken similar action. Sen. Pappas’s bill will extend this action statewide.
“I’ve heard the most egregious, heartbreaking stories about brutalities committed primarily against women and girls in the Congo because of conflict minerals, so I knew it was time for Minnesota to take action,” ended Sen. Pappas. “We need to do all that we can to ensure that our electronic-fueled lifestyles of the western world do not have these horrific impacts on innocent people. As citizens of Minnesota – and most importantly, citizens of the world – we can and will make the necessary changes to end these unacceptable practices that place profit over people’s lives. I commend my colleagues for voting in favor of peace today.”