Conflict Minerals:

Stakeholder Options for Responsible Sourcing Are Expanding, but More Information on Smelters Is Needed

GAO-14-575: Published: Jun 26, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 2014.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Kimberly M. Gianopoulos
(202) 512-8612
gianopoulosk@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

Since the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the Act) was passed in 2010, relevant U.S. agencies have undertaken various activities related to responsible sourcing of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries. In response to the Act, the Department of State (State) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) developed a strategy in 2011 to address the linkages among human rights abuses, armed groups, and the mining of conflict minerals and are implementing various strategy objectives. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a rule in 2012 requiring certain companies to disclose the source and chain of custody of necessary conflict minerals in their products. However, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) has not yet compiled a list of all conflict minerals processing facilities—smelters and refiners—known worldwide, required by January 2013 by the Act. Commerce cited difficulties with, for example, tracking conflict minerals operations but told GAO that it had completed outreach efforts with the majority of stakeholders. Commerce did not have a plan of action, with associated time frames, for developing and reporting on the list of conflict minerals processing facilities worldwide. Standard practices in program and project management include, among other things, developing a plan to execute specific projects needed to obtain defined results within a specific time frame. An action plan with timeframes could better position Commerce to report on the status of its efforts to produce a final list to Congress and to hold its personnel accountable for completing activities.

Over the past several years, a number of stakeholders—foreign governments, multilateral organizations, and industry associations, among others—have expanded, or made plans to expand, initiatives focused on responsible sourcing of conflict minerals in the DRC and adjoining countries. These stakeholder initiatives, such as in-region tracing of conflict minerals and development of guidance documents and audit protocols, have grown to include new mine sites, countries, and smelters. For example, the Conflict-Free Smelter Program, an industry-led effort, has expanded from 26 smelters certified as conflict-free in 2013 to 85 smelters as of April 25, 2014 (see table). New stakeholder initiatives are also underway or planned in the region, including the first responsible sourcing initiative in the Congo-Brazzaville. Some initiatives have yielded publicly available information, including data on production of conflict-free minerals and export data. For example, one stakeholder has reported production data for tin, tungsten, and tantalum from three provinces in the DRC and in Rwanda.

Number of Smelters and Refiners in the Conflict-Free Smelter Program as of April 25, 2014

Mineral

Number of smelters/refiners certified as compliant

Number of smelters/refiners working toward certification

Total

Tantalum

28

1

29

Tin

13

14

27

Tungsten

1

8

9

Gold

43

2

45

Total

85

25

110

Source: Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative data, GAO (analysis).

Why GAO Did This Study

Armed groups in eastern DRC continue to commit severe human rights abuses and profit from the exploitation of minerals, according to reports from the United Nations. Congress included a provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to address the trade in “conflict minerals”—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. Section 1502 of the Act directed several U.S. agencies to report or focus on issues related to conflict minerals.

This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which relevant U.S. agencies have undertaken activities related to responsible sourcing of conflict minerals and (2) what is known about the status of, and information provided by, stakeholder initiatives focused on responsible sourcing of conflict minerals from the DRC and adjoining countries. GAO reviewed and analyzed documents and data covering 2003 through 2014. We interviewed representatives from State, USAID, SEC, Commerce, nongovernmental organizations, industry, and international organizations who are cognizant of conflict minerals issues.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Commerce provide Congress a plan that outlines the steps, with associated timeframes, to develop and report the required information about smelters and refiners of conflict minerals worldwide. Commerce concurred with GAO's recommendation and noted that it will submit a listing of all known conflict minerals processing facilities worldwide to Congress by September 1, 2014.

For more information, contact Kimberly M. Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To give Congress a sense of Commerce's efforts to produce a listing of all known conflict minerals processing facilities worldwide, as required by section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Secretary of Commerce should provide to Congress a plan that outlines the steps, with associated timeframes, to develop and report the required information about smelters and refiners of conflict minerals worldwide.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 10, 2014

Sep 9, 2014

Aug 28, 2014

Jul 24, 2014

Jul 21, 2014

Jul 9, 2014

Jul 8, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here