(Senate - February 28, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 35 (Tuesday, February 28, 2017)]
[Pages S1473-S1474]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I would like to take a moment to recognize 
my constituents, Brian and Joanne Leber, of Leber Jeweler Inc. in 
Chicago, IL. A third-generation, family-owned business first 
established in 1921, Brian and his wife, Joanne, are dedicated to 
socially conscious and eco-friendly fine jewelry. Leber Jeweler Inc. 
has been instrumental in not only serving as a model for responsible 
and ethical sourcing in the jewelry industry, but Brian and Joanne also 
have a deep history of activism and philanthropy, advocating for 
important policies that support human rights.
  In 1999, Brian and Joanne developed and launched Earthwise Jewelry. 
Leber Jeweler Inc. was the first company in the United States to use 
conflict-free Canadian diamonds, and the landmark collection also 
utilizes fairly traded gemstones and recycled precious metals, all 
sourced, mined, designed, and produced with concerns for both the 
environment and fair-labor standards.
  Brian and Joanne also have been notable advocates for laws related to 
the responsible sourcing of precious stones and metals, including of 
rubies and jadeite from Burma and gold and tungsten from the Democratic 
Republic of Congo. In 2007, Brian testified before Congress in support 
of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act, and in 2009, he advocated for 
the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process for its human 
rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields. Then, in 2010, Brian 
supported efforts to pass bipartisan legislation that would create a 
mechanism to enhance transparency in the sourcing of conflict minerals 
and help American consumers and investors make informed decisions.
  I have had the privilege of traveling to the Democratic Republic of 
Congo twice, in 2005 and 2010. It is a nation of breathtaking natural 
beauty, but like too many others, it has suffered from the paradox of 
the resource curse. Despite being rich in natural resources that should 
seemingly promote growth and development, the Democratic Republic of 
Congo has faced decades of weak governance, poverty, and 
incomprehensible violence. And fueling much of the violence, at least 
in part, has been the contest for control of these resources and their 
trading routes. Sadly, this violence had coined a dubious distinction 
for eastern Congo, known as the Rape Capital of the World.
  I have seen firsthand the efforts of people like Dr. Jo Lusi and Dr. 
Denis Mukwege, who founded the HEAL Africa Hospital and the Panzi 
Hospital, respectively, restoring health and dignity to the survivors 
of sexual violence. When I chaired the first-ever hearing in the U.S. 
Senate about the uses of rape as a weapon of war in 2008, Dr. Mukwege 
stressed the importance of not just treating the consequences of sexual 
violence in the Congo, but addressing the root causes.

[[Page S1474]]

  Most people probably don't realize that the products we use and wear 
every day, from automobiles to our cell phones and even our wedding 
rings, may use one of these minerals and that there is a very real 
possibility it was mined using forced labor from an area of great 
violence. In 2009, I joined with then-Senators Brownback and Feingold--
a Republican and a Democrat--along with then-Congressman Jim McDermott, 
to pass bipartisan legislation that would help stem the flow of 
proceeds from illegally mined minerals to those perpetuating such 
violence. For the first time, companies registered in the United States 
were required to report in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 
SEC, disclosures any usage in their products of a small list of key 
minerals from the Congo or neighboring countries. Companies also had to 
include information showing steps taken, if any, to ensure the minerals 
are legitimately mined and sourced and that, by responsibly sourcing 
these minerals, they are not contributing to the region's violence. It 
wasn't a ban, but a transparency measure aimed at giving consumers 
choice and fostering a cleaner supply chain.
  It took time for the SEC to thoughtfully craft the rule for this 
simple and reasonable law, and disappointingly, as is increasingly too 
often the case with the rulemaking process, some tried to gut the law 
in court, but its core provisions have been repeatedly upheld.
  A look since then at the filings submitted to the SEC indicates that 
some companies had already been leaders on this for years--Apple Inc., 
Intel Corporation, Motorola, Inc., KEMET Corporation, just to name a 
few. Leber Jeweler Inc. has been a trailblazer in its own right from 
the start as well.
  It has been 7 years since passage, and we are seeing this law make a 
difference. According to the nongovernmental organization the Enough 
Project, an expert on the issue, more than 70 percent of the world's 
smelters and refiners for tin, tungsten, tantalum, or gold have now 
passed third-party conflict-free audits. In addition, the International 
Peace Information Service found that, as of 2016, more than three-
quarters of tin, tantalum, and tungsten miners in eastern Congo are 
working in mines where no armed group involvement has been reported.
  There is new concern today that the President may sign an Executive 
order suspending this simple reporting requirement; and yet many 
companies have come out in support of its continuation, including Brain 
and Joanne of Leber Jeweler Inc.
  I am grateful to Brian and Joanne, for their support and advocacy on 
this important cause. They and others like them in the industry have 
been stalwart advocates for the responsible sourcing of minerals, and I 
look forward to continuing to work with them on ways to stem the 
horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.