Rwanda a conflict-free mineral country – govt

Rwanda must be considered as a conflict-free mineral country, the Minister of State in charge of Mining, Evode Imena, told the US House of Representatives.
A miner sorts minerals using water. (File)
A miner sorts minerals using water. (File)

Rwanda must be considered as a conflict-free mineral country, the Minister of State in charge of Mining, Evode Imena, told the US House of Representatives.

Imena made the appeal on Tuesday during an over two-hour hearing entitled, ‘Dodd-Frank Five Years Later: What Have We Learned from Conflict Minerals Reporting?’ that was held by the monetary policy and trade subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives (committee of financial services) in Washington D.C.

Describing how Rwanda is working to ensure its minerals are conflict free, Imena said the country had made great strides by developing a mineral traceability programme.

“Rwanda has made significant efforts to clean the mineral supply chain. 100 per cent of the 3T minerals, tin, tantalum and tungsten, mined in Rwanda are traceable from the mine site up to the point of export,” he told US lawmakers.

“Despite all that has been accomplished, our efforts to improve are hampered by the fact that Rwanda was lumped together with nine other countries under Section 1502 of Dodd-Frank. Putting them in one group and applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ regulation is not only an impediment to efficient implementation of the regulations, but also fails to recognise the efforts made and challenges faced by individual countries,” Imena added.

Given the costs associated with complying with the law, the minister argued that it should not apply to Rwanda since there is no conflict in the country.

His submission was based on what appears to be challenges based on the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank) which was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama on July 21, 2010.

The Act is a financial reform legislation passed by the Obama administration.

In August 2012, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved a law mandated by the Dodd-Frank to require companies to publicly disclose their use of conflict minerals that originated in the DR Congo or an adjoining country.

The law requires companies to disclose whether the sourcing of conflict minerals in their products benefited armed groups.

And, in particular, section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires mining companies to disclose whether they source “conflict minerals” – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – from the DR Congo and nine neighbouring countries, including Rwanda.

It affects the DR Congo and its neighbouring countries, including Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The minerals are used in products such as cell phones and other electronic devices. However, proceeds from the sale of the minerals were blamed for financing rebel activity in eastern DR Congo.

National mineral revenues stood at $216 million last year, and the government targets annual mineral production worth $400 million by 2017.

The sector targets at least $250million by the end of this year despite turbulence in global prices for major minerals. In an effort to achieve these targets, the government has recently approved 29 mineral and quarry licences under the new ministerial guidelines to help boost the sector.

Unintended consequences

Meanwhile, in his opening statement at the onset of the hearing, Congressman Bill Huizenga noted that five years on, he is convinced that the law is now “harming the very people it was intended to help”, noting that many miners in the DR Congo are now forced to find other sources of livelihood – including joining armed groups.

Huizenga said the law was “the wrong vehicle” notwithstanding the honourable goals.

“Dodd-Frank is full of unintended consequences. Today we have the opportunity to hear from expert witnesses...the conflict minerals provision within the Dodd-Frank is limiting opportunities to create jobs in the African mining sector, failing to improve the living standards for local miners and failing to ensure source of minerals from African nations that are totally free of bloodshed,” he noted.

However, recalling that improvements have been made over the past few years due to the legislation, Congresswoman Gwen Moore stressed her support of the Dodd-Frank.

Moore said: “I am open to improving Section 1502 but now is not the time to discuss repeal of 1502, especially as we’ve witnessed rogue organisations and rogue states seeking revenue streams for terrorist activities.”

In his testimony, Professor Jeff Schwartz, a law don from University of Utah, stressed that Section 1502 is not working but there is still hope about it.

The assertion that it is not working, he said, was based on empirical evidence he obtained from studies he conducted in 2014.

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