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Business groups to appeal against conflict minerals ruling

Influential business organisations in the US are to appeal against a recent court ruling that upheld a new rule requiring large companies to disclose whether any conflict minerals are used in their products.

The businesses, led by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) trade association, have filed a ‘notice of intent’ that they will appeal the federal court ruling, which backed moves by the US Securities and Exchange Commissions to introduce the rule as part of its response to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which overhauled US securities markets.

As the rule stands, companies have until May 2014 to file initial reports with the SEC detailing if any of their products use tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten that comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The European Union is taking steps to adopt a similar regulation, while Canada has also introduced draft legislation on the topic.

The NAM, which has a history of opposing corporate responsibility measures, including the introduction of carbon taxes and the strengthening of limits on ozone emissions, indicated that it would file initial documents for the appeal by 12 September. However, it has not said anything more on the matter.

The decision to appeal has drawn an angry response from NGOs that support the new rules. ‘Once again industry groups are seeking to stall the inevitable transparency needed for reform in this critical area,’ said Carly Oboth, assistant policy adviser for the human rights pressure group Global Witness.

Global Witness says the introduction of the SEC rule has already generated ‘unprecedented momentum’ within the DRC to reform its mineral sector. The government there has passed a law requiring all trading and mining companies operating in the country to carry out due diligence to avoid sourcing conflict minerals.

US trade groups, including the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce, have so far argued unsuccessfully in the courts that the SEC rules are 'arbitrary and capricious' and run contrary to the country's first amendment, which prohibits the making of any law that curtails free speech.

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Posted on August 23, 2013 at 06:05am
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