The 2 March deadline for submissions to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding conflict minerals issues covered by the Dodd Frank Act has now passed. However just before the deadline the US regulators received a submission from three co-operatives representing 20,000 artisanal miners at the Bisie mine in North Kivu – the main centre of tin mining in DR Congo in recent years. The 1 March submission was backed by provincial government leaders and pointed out that the miners had so far not been consulted in moves towards an embargo on trade in tin and other minerals which could come into effect within a few weeks. A local suspension of mining in the area – in force since last September – is due to be lifted by the DRC government on 10 March.

In a statement the co-operatives said that: “Leaders of cooperatives representing 20,000 small scale miners and their extended community of 100,000 people, lend their support to the Dodd Frank Bill, which aims to prohibit the use of rare metals and minerals that fund conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. However, they want to caution the SEC on listening to campaign organisations …..who do not represent the ordinary people in the region affected by this piece of legislation. They request an opportunity to speak, face to face with the SEC in order to present the reality on the ground, and find a way to implement a time table with the community that will promote peace and prosperity in the eastern DRC.”

Part of the SEC submission runs as follows:

“We want to bring to your attention that we the local population in the areas that will be the most effected by your proposed legislation Dodd-Frank Bill, have not been consulted in all these times.

We have been suffering greatly for many years and would like to ask you to help in a constructive way to improve the lives of the local population in the region of Walikale, and the rest of the DRC and not to punish us further.

We are aware that you plan to put an embargo in place from 1 April 2011 for all minerals that don’t have traceability.

We are supporting you very well in what you want to achieve and thank you for all your effort, but for us if we cannot start to work when the ban is lifted we will starve. We cannot continue to suffer any longer. Do we now have to choose between dying by a bullet or starving to death?

We are also afraid that smuggling of minerals will increase – the people have to eat – and that all the positive effect of the current ban will be removed. It is important to now quickly build on the positive effect of the (local DRC) ban.”