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Companies must reveal source of minerals

Move by SEC intended to curb Congo violence

WASHINGTON – U.S. regulators mandated Wednesday that public companies disclose information about their use of minerals from Congo, where militias linked to atrocities have profited from mining minerals used in electronics, jewelry and other goods.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 to adopt a rule under the 2010 financial overhaul law. Public companies that use the designated minerals from Congo and neighboring countries in their products will have to disclose annually their efforts to trace the minerals back to their sources.

The SEC also voted 2-1 to require producers of oil, natural gas or minerals to disclose any payments involving commercial development that they make to the U.S. or a foreign government. The payments would include taxes, royalties and licensing fees.

The regulators say stricter reporting requirements on mineral use might help curb the violence in Congo. They also say the rules will make companies more accountable to their shareholders.

Some companies have complained about the difficulty of determining whether, or in what quantity, certain products include the affected minerals.

The two Republican SEC commissioners, Troy Paredes and Daniel Gallagher, opposed the adoption of the rule. They said they think SEC rules aren’t the proper way to achieve the goal of ending violence in Congo.

Paredes said the reporting requirements could have undesired effects in Congo. For example, he said, the minerals could be smuggled into other countries and sold as if they had originated there.

The affected minerals are gold, and the ores of tin, tungsten and tantalum. Tantalum is widely used in electronics, including cellphones, laptops and game consoles. Tin and tungsten have many industrial uses.


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