I have dedicated the past decade to helping children who are caught in the middle of the violence caused by the unethical harvesting and trading of natural resources. I have personally visited war-torn diamond and gold mining regions around the world, and have seen the devastation first hand. I have held malnourished babies in my arms. I have tried to comfort a 9-year-old boy who is crying that he only wants “peace and to feel safe.” I have been thrown out of Sierra Leone and had to run for my life back to Liberia. I have bribed my way out of unofficial border crossings when trying to visit areas rich in diamonds and gold. I have cried with reformed child soldiers as they told me the unimaginable crimes they have committed, and with young girls that have been brutally raped and their families killed. The violence caused by the trading of conflict natural resources is still a real problem in today's society and needs to be taken very seriously.
Over the past 12 years I have seen many different laws and regulations come and go, some more effective than others. Unfortunately today we are taking a step backwards. The Trump administration has prepared a new executive order that would stop regulatory controls designed to prevent US companies from profiting from and encouraging the spread of “conflict minerals.” This would lead to a two-year suspension of section 1502 of the The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed by the US Congress in July, 2010. This section is specifically aimed at stopping the national army and rebel groups in the DRC from illegally using profits from the minerals trade to fund their fight.
Dodd-Frank financial reforms require US firms to carry out due diligence to ensure that the supply line from products they sell include no minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or neighboring countries. The regulation was widely applauded and recognized for its attempts to cut ties between big business and warlords who have spread unrest throughout the Congo and caused the deaths of more than five million people since the 1990’s.
Unlike other programs created to regulate conflict materials, such as the Kimberly Process which has unsuccessfully prevented conflict diamonds from entering the diamond supply since its creation 15 years ago, the Dodd-Frank reform has been largely successful. The Congolese government and mining sector officials have publicly expressed support for Dodd Frank especially in the eastern areas of the country that are most affected. US companies have been required to check whether they are funding conflict or human rights abuses through their purchases of minerals, including tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Jewelry, mobile phones, laptops, and airplanes are only some of the widely used items that require these minerals.
It is not acceptable to trade in minerals that have been mined by children, or women who have been raped and men who have been tortured in the process of getting these natural resources to market. People in mineral rich regions of the world live in extreme poverty and violence because corporations in foreign countries have decided that short-term financial gains is more important than human life. This is not acceptable.
The suspension of section 1502 would be detrimental to the people of West Africa, however, as consumers of these natural resources, we still hold the greatest power. The answer starts with consumers and the excessiveness in which we purchase these products and the companies they come from. Do not buy a product unless you know the origin and do not buy from a company that will not disclose that information.
The suspension of the SEC’s conflict minerals rule would not change MiaDonna & Company’s commitment to transparent sourcing. I created MiaDonna and The Greener Diamond foundation to be an advocate for diamond mining communities, diamond consumers, and the earth. Our diamonds are made in a lab, our precious metals are 100% recycled, and all our jewelry is handcrafted in the USA. With our profits, we are able to give back to those communities affected by the mining of conflict materials so children can grow food and go to school instead of spending their lives in a mine. No matter what reforms are made during this administration we will stick true to our core values.
We will continue to follow this story and any others related to policies affecting the mining practices of conflict materials - check back with us for further updates.