Powerful players in the international mining industry are asking for more time to respond to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s controversial proposal to require that companies disclose their use of so-called “conflict minerals” extracted from countries plagued by violence or human rights abuses.
The National Mining Association, which represents 325 U.S. mining companies, and the British-based World Gold Council each wrote to the SEC last week asking for an extra 30 days to respond, moving the deadline back to March 2.
More time is needed, both groups said, because of the complexity of the issues and because the SEC proposal was released on Dec. 15, just before the Christmas holiday. “The comment period falls at a time of the year when many companies are closed for the holidays or employees are out of the office on leave. Without adequate response from regulated entities, the final regulations could have inadvertent and adverse consequences,” Bruce Watzman, a senior vice president of the National Mining Association, told the SEC in a letter.
The SEC has received more than 450 e-mails and letters about the Dodd-Frank financial reform law’s mandate that companies report the use of conflict minerals and report payments made to governments for oil, natural gas, and mining development.
Republican Spencer Bachus, the new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and a critic of the Dodd-Frank law, has urged agency regulators to slow down work on the scores of new regulations mandated by the law with specific deadlines for completion.
Rees Warne, an extractive industries policy expert with Catholic Relief Services, says the new conflict minerals regulation would help hold governments accountable while giving American investors – individuals and pooled monies like pension funds – a better understanding of where their money is going. Conflict minerals come from resource-rich countries that can look attractive on paper, but “far too often have problems of corruption or lack of citizen participation and that tends to be the countries that we’re talking about,” Warne says.