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Responding to Washington Post Article on Conflict Minerals

By Per Loof, December 19, 2014​

In the November 30, 2014 issue of The Washington Post, there was an article entitled "How a well-intentioned U.S. law left Congolese miners jobless.” As the Chief Executive Officer of KEMET Corporation (a U.S. based global manufacturer and one of the world's largest users of tantalum), I felt compelled to share KEMET's story, which provides vital context to those who believe that Dodd-Frank's conflict minerals requirements have not had a positive impact on both the global business community and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The article implies that American companies have fled the DRC since the signing of the law. Rather than avoid the DRC, KEMET used Dodd-Frank as an impetus for developing an innovative and socially sustainable solution to sourcing conflict-free tantalum from the DRC.

To realize this vision, the KEMET initiative - Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability - was formed. This project developed one of the electronics industry’s first vertically integrated, closed-pipe, sustainable sourcing models. We get tantalum ore directly from a conflict-free mine in the DRC that is operated according to a special agreement between KEMET, our mining partner and the people of the mining town of Kisengo. The closed-pipe (it is processed and smelted by KEMET) allows us to be sure no tantalum from non conflict-free sources enters our supply chain.

While the article argues that miners in the DRC have been negatively impacted by Dodd-Frank, I can say with certainty that this is not the case with our initiative. Prior to our involvement in Kisengo, their mining process was old-fashioned and the community did not have access to stable health and educational resources. Our investments have modernized the mine, making it more efficient and safer for the workers. We built a new hospital for the mineworkers and the people of Kisengo that has served over 1,000 patients this year. We built a new school that now has 1,854 students and outfitted it with resources to continue operating. We established access to clean water, installed solar powered street lights and refurbished basic infrastructure (roads and bridges). We have not stopped there and continually strive to make our investments to Kisengo more impactful. To learn more, please visit: http://www.kemet.com/conflictfree.

The business value is clear: we have invested in the supply chain in the DRC, the US and Mexico and, through this initiative, we can now better control our costs and supply a wide range of tantalum powders to support market demand. The economic benefit to KEMET, compared to prior to our investment, is multiples of what we have invested in the village to improve the life of the miners and their families. The run rate benefit to KEMET, our customers and shareholders, is now at $53 million per annum and increasing. We have shown that it is possible to succeed while being economically and socially responsible.

The DRC has vital natural resources that drive the creation of economic value. These resources and their local communities must be cherished and protected. The Dodd-Frank law has certainly helped companies like KEMET to embrace this need and envision better solutions for our stakeholders.

Raghavan, S. (2014, November 30). How a well-intentioned U.S. law left Congolese miners jobless. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com