The financial reform bill that President Obama signed into law last month also included new regulations targeting "conflict minerals" sourced from unstable regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding countries.
The new provisions, tucked inside more than 2,000 pages of legislation, require publicly-traded and electronic companies to submit an annual report outlining what they are doing to ensure the minerals they're using tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, in particular are "conflict-free."
Recently, human rights advocates and various NGOs have put the spotlight on the sourcing of these minerals, claiming that militias in the DRC use the income generated by some mines to fund the country's brutal and long-running civil war. In a statement last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described the devastating effects of trade in conflict minerals:
Last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I spoke out against the trade in "conflict minerals" that has funded a cycle of conflict there that has left more than 5 million people dead since 1998, displaced countless more, and spawned an epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence.
The new regulations require that companies certify where their minerals are sourced and disclose what steps are taken to ensure that they are not from sources funding conflict. The bill does not attach a penalty for using conflict minerals.
If you're curious about the details, see the legislation here, scroll down to "Title XV Miscellaneous Provisions"(which is near the end of the document), and find "Sec. 1502 Conflict Minerals."