‘Conflict Minerals’ Gold, Tin & Tungsten Face New Layer Of Regulation

July 31, 2012

Dodd-Frank Act seeks to cut funding of armed groups engaged in conflict and human rights abuses through disclosure rule.


Question: What do columbite-tantalite (coltan), cassiterite, gold and wolframite have in common?

Answer: They, and their derivatives, are “conflict minerals” in the context of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted in July 2010. (For those less geologically minded: Tantalum comes from coltan, tin comes from cassiterite and tungsten from wolframite.)

Whatever else Dodd-Frank may be, it is certainly long—849 pages. Only on the 839th page do you encounter “SEC. 1502. CONFLICT MINERALS.,” with the entire section, and issue, wrapped up in just six pages.

But for the SEC, tasked with framing the relevant rules, the wording in those few pages appears to have echoed ominously the brevity of Fermat’s Last Theorem, and what the mathematician famously claimed: “I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.”

That theorem took over 350 years to prove, and the proof by Andrew Wiles is longer than 100 pages. With a proposed rule of more than 100 pages back in mid-December 2010, after two years, the SEC has still not come up with the final rule. We have recently been informed however that a vote will be taken on Aug. 22. We wait—still.


Tacked on to the end of Dodd-Frank, and described succinctly in LG Electronics’ Statement on Conflict Minerals, “The goal of the act [in this section anyway] is to cut direct and indirect funding of armed groups engaged in conflict and human rights abuses.”

The conflict and human rights abuses targeted are those currently occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—formerly Zaire—particularly in the provinces of North and South Kivu and in the Ituri district of the Orientale province, and adjoining countries.




The funding targeted is that currently derived from the sale of gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten, and “any other mineral or its derivatives determined by the Secretary of State to be financing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country.”


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