New industry demands aimed at stamping out the use of conflict minerals from areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo came into force on 1 April, but some in the industry say they could do more harm than good, Reuters reported. The industry standard was initiated by Washington-based Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and Brussels-based Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI). Leading companies in the hi-tech sector including Microsoft , Dell, Apple, HP and Intel are members of the EICC. “The whole goal is towards responsible sourcing and not to fuel conflict,” EICC spokeswoman Wendy Dittmer told Reuters. Dittmer said the EICC scheme covers similar ground to the US Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. The Securities and Exchange Commission is writing rules to implement the law which are due to be published shortly.

Some in the industry have questioned the timing of the EICC demands, which also apply to neighbouring countries including Rwanda and Burundi, saying enough had not been done to allow sellers to prove their minerals are “conflict free”. Plans to put traceability programmes in place, however, have been hampered by a lack of funding and a six-month mining ban introduced by the Congolese government, which was only lifted on 10 March, said Karen Hayes of PACT, a capacity building NGO charged with implementing ground level aspects of the iTSCi scheme.

Hayes said a couple of years were needed to implement the regulations, adding that PACT was calling for a monitored implementation phase rather than an immediate moratorium that risks pushing 400,000 artisanal miners into the hands of smuggling networks, who can find alternative buyers. “Everyone recognises it’s time to clean up the supply chain, but if these new requirements just land on people, it could drive out significant stakeholders and re-enforce the mafia.”

John Kanyoni, the head of the mineral exporters association in North Kivu, said the demands are a de facto embargo and that many artisanal miners had already downed tools in despair. He said the Congolese mining industry remained committed to improvements but would look for alternative markets. “We’ve been pushed into a corner by American companies. To call for full traceability when everyone knows we haven’t had a chance to implement it is just a way to put thousands and thousands of Africans out of their jobs,” he added.