November 12, 2012

New U.S. rules regarding the use of so-called conflict minerals in cellphones and laptop computers protect innocent people in Congo from displacement and serious harm and must remain in place, said advocates from two prominent Catholic organizations.

The rules provide U.S. consumers with information about the components of the products they buy and can shed light on the actions of rebel groups fighting over control of strategic mining regions in central Africa, staff members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services said during a webcast Oct. 25.

The regulations require that companies using natural resources such as tantalum, tin, gold and tungsten in popular electronic devices have two years to begin reporting on material obtained from Congo and neighbouring countries and the route followed to the consumer market, said Richard Coll, foreign policy adviser on Latin America and global trade at the USCCB.

Congo has experienced 16 years of fighting among various rebel groups competing for strategic and mineral-rich portions of the country.

The rules, introduced by the Securities and Exchange Commission Aug. 22, are being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals by two business groups that claim they are ineffective, burdensome and too costly to implement.