Subject: Reconsideration of Conflict Minerals Rule Implementation
From: Richard Natoli-Rombach

March 16, 2017

SEC Action Chairman Michael S. Piwowar

Dear SEC Action Chairman Piwowar,

As a supporter of the Wildlife Conservation Society, I am writing to express my support for the SEC's 2012 conflict minerals rule. Unregulated mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and surrounding region poses a substantial threat to great apes and other species of endangered wildlife, as illegal mining operations inside and around the country's national parks have destroyed critical habitat and caused the killing of endangered wildlife like the Grauer's gorilla -- the biggest great ape on the planet -- and many other animals to feed miners. Great apes are also vulnerable to diseases that result from being in close proximity to workers living in unsanitary conditions. A recent study supported by the U.S. government showed that the Grauer's gorilla population in DRC has declined by 80%, and this gorilla was recently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List due to this substantial decline.

The situation has improved since the conflict minerals rule was approved, promoting the rule of law, increasing stability in the region, and reducing pressure on endangered wildlife. It supports the Congolese people in their efforts towards good governance, improves transparency in supply chain around conflict minerals, and provides consumers with information to help them make informed purchases. As of April 2016, there are now 204 mines free from guns and armed militias because of this rule, giving American companies and consumers growing confidence that their purchases are not contributing to death and destruction in DRC. I urge you to continue to implement the rule and to reject efforts to weaken it.

I was a research assistant at Karisoke Research Center in 1974 working with Dian Fossey. It was only by four decades of conservation and education that the mountain gorilla population increased. Do not weaken any efforts to protect the endangered Grauer gorillas!


Richard Natoli-Rombach