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The Unintended Congo “Catastrophe” of Dodd-Frank Conflict Mineral Provision

A number of months ago I wrote a blog entry on the requirement in the Dodd-Frank bill, put in by then-Senator (and now Kansas governor) Sam Brownback, prohibiting the purchase of “conflict minerals”—those that might be used to finance warfare in Africa, particularly the Congo. I noted the very simple economic point that this would create a surplus that would drive prices down, mostly harm local miners, but benefit buyers/countries without U.S.-level scruples about these purchases.

I shouldn’t brag—any Econ I student could have seen this point; but it is nice, albeit depressing to see this prediction come true. From David Aronson in the New York Times:

For locals, however, the law has been a catastrophe. In South Kivu Province, I heard from scores of artisanal miners and small-scale purchasers, who used to make a few dollars a day digging ore out of mountainsides with hand tools. Paltry as it may seem, this income was a lifeline for people in a region that was devastated by 32 years of misrule under the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko (when the country was known as Zaire) and that is now just beginning to emerge from over a decade of brutal war and internal strife.

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