Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker is expected to sign a statewide legislation to fight against deadly "conflict minerals" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this afternoon (2 February).
The term "conflict minerals" is used to describe raw materials, such as gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin, that are mined in areas where fighting or human rights abuses take place.
Massachusetts will later today become the third state in the country to have passed legislation, known as Resolve S.2463, supporting a conflict-free minerals trade and peace in the DRC. They join Maryland and California in recognising this.
Local activists, Congolese diaspora members and human rights groups welcomed the legislation, saying it was the result of over six years of campaigning.
Julie Kabukanyi, a community leader of the Congolese diaspora and member of Congo Action Now, said: "Resolve S.2463 indicates that the state of Massachusetts cares about the Congolese people, and is willing to work to support their fight for peace."
Sasha Lezhnev, associate director of policy at the Enough Project, added: "Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidise companies that are unable to weed conflict minerals out of their supply chains. This resolution is timely and will help drive further industry reform."
The legislation is aligned with existing goals of the national conflict minerals legislation, Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which requires listed companies, including Apple, Intel and HP, to report annually on their conflict minerals supply chain examination process.
Stephen R. Hilbert, foreign policy adviser for Africa and global development at the Office of International Justice and Peace at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, described the Dodd-Franck's Congo Conflict Minerals Act as "the culmination of bipartisan work to acknowledge the effects that illicit mineral mining had on the deadliest conflict in our world since World War II".
"This bill has even deeper meaning for the Congolese people. Going all the way back to 1885, the Congolese people have watched foreign powers exploit their country for its mineral and natural wealth while the people lived in poverty. Section 1502 breaks that 115 year-long brutal legacy," Hilbert said.
Technically, Resolve S.2463 requires the state to conduct an assessment and issue a report on its procurement policies with regards to conflict minerals from the DRC. Based on future findings, the state will have to encourage the implementation of mechanisms that support responsible mineral sourcing from the resource-rich African nation.
Congo's mining curse
DRC's mineral potential, worth $24tn (£16.9tn) – the size of the US and European GDPs combined – is a curse, which Western powers have sought to have their share in by either maintaining tyrannical leaders, invading Congo or fanning political instability through violent armed groups fighting government troops (FARDC) to control mines and smuggling routes.
Those minerals have denied local people the peace, stability and prosperity that could result from the ethical management of the the nation's natural resources, said Bandi Mbubi, founder of Congo Calling, an NGO working to raise awareness of the role of conflict minerals in fuelling the conflict in the DRC.