In an effort to reduce the usage of conflict materials, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled that manufacturers must publicly disclose whether their products use conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or any adjoining country. The particular metals in question include tantalum, tin, gold, or tungsten; companies must now "conduct a reasonable 'country of origin' inquiry...to determine whether any of its minerals originated in the covered countries." If a company finds that its materials are not conflict-free, the company is bound to investigate further, file reports with the SEC, and disclose the findings on the company's website. Even if the company finds no evidence of conflict minerals, it must also report that the SEC, and companies are now bound to do this reporting on a yearly basis. The first reports are due on May 31st, 2014.
As Bloomberg reports, this new ruling will require thousands of US companies, including Apple and Boeing, to perform these yearly investigations. However, this rule is actually less severe than one proposed in 2010 — originally, companies would have had to conclusively prove that their materials did not come from the DRC, but now companies can simply show that there's no evidence of a link to conflict minerals. Somewhat strangely, the SEC excludes companies that simply put their branding or logo on a generic product are excluded from this ruling — Bloomberg specifically notes that retail giant Walmart is one of those exempt from this new ruling. While this new ruling may create a lot of work for some huge corporations, it's probably worthwhile to cut down on the support of mines that help finance or benefit armed groups in the DRC.