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In October 2002, a United Nations Panel of Experts accused 85 OECD-based companies of violating the Guidelines for their direct or indirect roles in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Panel alleged that “elite networks” of political and military elites and businesspersons fueled the conflict in order to retain their control over the country’s vast natural resources.
The complaint alleges that OM Group (and its joint venture partner, George Forrest) deliberately ignoring technical agreements that provide for the construction of two electrical refineries and a converter for germanium processing in the DRC. Instead, semi-processed ore has been shipped to OMGroup’s processing facility in Finland, thereby depriving the state mining company, Gecamines, of millions of dollars in revenue. RAID and FoE have raised the specific instance due to a lack of adequate investigation by the State Department into allegations raised by the UN panel of Experts' concerning the direct or indirect comlicity of the company in fueling the natural-resource driven war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Separate to the Panel’s allegations, a World Bank environmental report raised concerns about the exploitation of radioactive minerals from concessions owned by Gecamines. The Belgian Senate concluded that airborne and waterborne pollution could not be discounted at the STL smelter. At issue is whether there were sufficient measures to prevent radioactive contamination of the Congolese workforce and whether the local population was exposed to unacceptably high levels of pollution.
On August 23, 2004, the US NCP rejected the complaint on the grounds that the allegations “have not been adequately substantiated, denied by the firms concerned, and called into doubt by the party that originally made them”. The NCP stated he is “prepared to make further inquiries with the UN regarding the availability of any further information on the US firms mentioned in the UN Panel’s report”.
In a follow-up meeting in January 2005 in Washington, DC, the Complainants provided the NCP with information on the export of coltan from the eastern DRC. The Panel asserted in its October 2002 report that “no coltan exists from the eastern [DRC] without benefiting either the rebel group or foreign armies.” In that meeting, the US NCP stated he had not sought additional information from the UN. The NCP offered to see if the companies would participate in an “informal” dialogue with RAID.
When the Complainants followed up in September 2005, the US NCP confirmed that the companies had received his letter, but that they never responded to his offer.
In August 2006, RAID wrote to all the US companies asking whether the UN Panel’s allegations led to changes in business and management practices. No response has been received from any of the companies.
OECD Watch case story page: http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_47