New US Customs Withhold Release Order singles out DRC instead of requiring implementation of traceability and due diligence for all artisanally-mined minerals
October 2, 2019—Ottawa, Canada
A new US Customs and Border Protection action requiring companies importing artisanal gold from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to provide evidence that it was not mined with forced labour—further continues to stigmatize and single out DRC.
IMPACT’s Just Gold project is the first to bring traceable, legal, and conflict-free artisanal gold from northeastern DRC to international market. Gold is imported to Canada and the United States, accompanied by data on traceability, due diligence, and socio-economic impact on the local miners and their communities.
While gold produced through the Just Gold project would be allowed into the United States—this is just one more barrier to responsible buyers in North America to purchase and promote conflict-free, artisanal gold from DRC.
“Through our experience with the Just Gold project—working with the local artisanal miners, traders, and exporters on the ground in northeastern DRC who are trying to enter the legal market—our biggest blockage is those in the international market who say they want to do good, but are too scared to take the leap and buy the gold because of the stigma around DRC,” said Joanne Lebert, Executive Director of IMPACT.
“The actions of US Customs have the right intent—however they should not have singled out DRC as it further will discourage the small number of buyers sourcing from the few traceability initiatives in eastern DRC. This stigmatization further inhibits the scaling and sustainability of these efforts, which depend in part on market engagement. Rather, we wish the efforts of the US Government would have focused on ensuring that no artisanal gold—or any artisanal mineral or gem—mined in any country, that is linked to forced labour would be allowed into the United States,” said Lebert.
As per Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, any publically listed companies in the US must implement traceability and due diligence on their supply chain if gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum originate from DRC or its neighbours—to demonstrate that it is not funding armed groups.
This order may target smaller actors who aren’t publically listed, such as smaller refiners and boutique jewellers. However, all private sectors should be implementing traceability and due diligence on their mineral supply chains, in accordance with international responsible sourcing standards such as those set out by the OECD. Traceability and due diligence should be carried out on the entire mineral and gem supply chains, whether they originate in DRC or anywhere else in the world.
Zuzia Danielski, Communications Director
IMPACT, formerly Partnership Africa Canada, transforms how natural resources are managed in areas where security and human rights are at risk. We investigate and develop approaches for natural resources to improve security, development, and equality. We are an independent non-profit collaborating with local partners for lasting change. www.impacttransform.org