New bill to increase oversight of American mining companies in DRC

Congolese blogger Alex Engwete writes about a new bill in the U.S. Senate to increase government oversight of American companies with mining interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On April 23rd, Republican senator Sam Brownback introduced the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 , cosponsored by senators Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin, which would require American companies mining coltan, cassiterite, and wolframite to report annually to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), the agency that regulates American financial markets, “to disclose the country of origin of the minerals to the Securities and Exchange Commission. If the minerals are from DRC or neighboring countries, companies would have to also disclose the mine of origin.”

According to a release on Senator Brownback's website, the act “calls on the United States to support multilateral efforts to investigate, monitor, and stop activities involving natural resources that contribute to illegally armed groups and human rights violations in eastern Congo.”

Engwete is hopes this oversight will result in real changes on the ground:

Espérons qu’après la signature de cette loi par Obama on ne verra plus des bandits transformer l’autoroute de Walikale en aérodrome de fortune.

Il y a un mois, un reportage de TV5MONDE avait établi que des éléments armés pillaient systématiquement la cassitérite à Walikale avec la complicité de Kinshasa. Pis, ces éléments armés avaient réduit à l’esclavage les villageois creuseurs de ce minerais en leur imposant des taxes fantaisistes, des droits de péage, des « droits d’entrée » dans les mines artisanales et des prix arbitraires du kilo du minerais extrait — et ce, au nez et à la barbe du chef de division des mines terré à Goma.

Let's hope that after Obama signs this act into law, we won't see any more bandits transforming the Walikale highway into a makeshift airstip (see photo here).

A month ago, TV5MONDE found that armed elements were systematically pilliaging cassiterite in Walikale [a territory in North Kivu] with the complicity of Kinshasa.  Worse, these armed elements had reduced to slavery the villagers who dig these minerals by imposing on them ludicrous taxes, tolls, and “right of entry” into traditional mines and arbitrary prices–and this right under the nose of the head of mines stationed in Goma.

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