Only a small fraction of the mines in the eastern region of the DRC have been declared conflict-free, and since Dodd-Frank requires companies to disclose where their minerals come from, many companies have chosen to abandon their operations in the DRC altogether. As blogger David Aronson writes for the New York Times, "It's easier to sidestep Congo than to sort out the complexities of Congolese politics.”
Consequently, many smelting companies have stopped sourcing minerals from Eastern Congo, threatening the job security of the Congo’s 10 million civilian miners. As Aronson recounted following a visit to a mining province in the DRC’s Kivu Province, those who rely on mining for their livelihoods are going hungry, and are suffering from the absence of vital provisions once frequently airdropped into their villages.
Local initiatives have emerged to counteract these ill effects of the Dodd-Frank embargo. Since companies can only buy from conflict-free smelters, the “bag and tag” system has been implemented to ensure that minerals have been sourced from a conflict-free location. The plastic tag on mined ore allows the minerals to be certified as conflict-free and then exported, upholding regulatory compliance while preserving miners’ livelihoods.
Thus, while Dodd-Frank certainly brought transparency to the supply chain, it has had unintended repercussions for miners on the ground. While there are certainly no easy answers to this complex issue, consumer-facing electronics manufacturers should do everything in their power to maintain the integrity of their 3TG supply chains.