There are varied definitions for conflict minerals. I usually define conflict minerals as minerals that are mined and used to influence and finance armed conflict, human rights abuses, and violence.
I also like Global Witness’ definition of “conflict resources” as “natural resources whose systematic exploitation and trade in a context of conflict contribute to, benefit from or result in the commission of serious violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law”.
Two years ago this term “conflict minerals” hit the US business community with a thud. See, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act had a small section, section 1502, that mandated companies fully understand their supply-chain and report whether or not they were using conflict minerals - in this case tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold - from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The definition used for this law is a specific one and only looks at conflict associated with minerals in the regions of eastern DRC.
In recent weeks, hundreds of Costco customers have flooded Costco s Facebook page to urge them to reject dirty or irresponsibly mined gold and to commit to switching to more ethically produced metals. The wholesale chain one of the nation s leading jewelry retailers has failed to respond, and environmental and human rights campaigners are turning up the heat.
This week, Earthworks No Dirty Gold Campaign and change.org are urging Costco customers to call the company s headquarters in Issiquah, WA, to tell CEO James Sinegal it s time to sign the Golden Rules, principles for more responsible mining that respect human rights, adopt fair labor standards, and minimize harm to the environment. To date, more than 80 leading jewelry retailers including Sears/Kmart, Target, and Tiffany & Co. have signed on to the Golden Rules principles. Customers are asking why Costco is lagging behind other major retailers in ensuring that the gold it sells is not tainted with human rights abuses or pollution.
Right now, Costco cannot tell its customers whether the gold in their display cases is coming at the cost of safe working conditions or from mines with cyanide spills that are poisoning communities' drinking water, said Nick Magel, coordinator of the No Dirty Gold campaign. Costco customers deserve better, and communities near mine sites deserve better.
Last week the International Financial Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, updated its Sustainability Framework and the Performance Standards within that framework.
The IFC is the largest multilateral source of loan and equity financing for private sector projects in the developing world. The Sustainability Framework sets forth a number of baseline performance standards that projects they fund (oil, gas, mining, etc) must adhere to in able to receive funding.
Now, these 8 standards leave a lot to be desired, they:
- are weak in environmental and biodiversity protection,
- lack comprehensive safeguards of human rights, and
- are written with an ambiguity that is often exploitable by companies looking to cut corners.
You can go to the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman website to see a long list of officially disputed IFC backed projects.