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Posts Tagged ‘Enforcement’

"Blood Rocks"

Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being sent down mines to die so that motorcyclists in Europe and America can ride the freedom of the open road…

Attention getting statement?  Sure.  Does it also carry an overall air of guilt towards Harley-Davidson producing motorcycles with “conflict minerals” and implicate the consumers who are buying them?  Yes.

The phrase conflict minerals (often referred to as “blood rocks”) has quickly become a familiar term as concerned consumers and organizations begin to raise public awareness of the role the mineral trade plays in fuelling the violence raging in the DRC.

I’m talking in particular about tintungsten and tantalum – collectively referred to as the “3Ts” – and speculation on the motorcycle manufacturing supply chain at Harley-Davidson.

The Congo has been home to countless atrocities that afflict the civilian population; atrocities committed by various competing armed groups vying for profits from its rich supply of minerals know as the “3-Ts”.   Some five million people have been killed in the central African state since the start of a 1998-2003 war as the government and U.N. forces struggle to uproot rebel groups who are active in the minerals-rich east, particularly the North and South Kivu areas, which share a porous border with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

Do I believe there is some clandestine attempt on the part of the H-D motor company to bring suffering to the people of the Congo?  No.  I’m sure that H-D management takes very seriously any allegation that metals in their supply chain may be fueling human rights atrocities.  In fact, you can read Harley-Davidson’s corporate governance which highlights environmental responsibilities, however, doesn’t directly address the monitoring of conflict minerals in their supplier chain.  I wanted to highlight the issue as the motorcycle industry is not immune.

First, let’s get a brief background on the minerals:

  1. Tantalum – is a rare, non-radioactive metal and in nature, tantalum (Ta) is almost always found with niobium (also known as columbium) in oxide form. The principal source for tantalum is the mineral columbite-tantalite.  60% of its commercial use is in the field of consumer electronics (cellular phones, DVD players, computers, gaming platforms, specialty electronics (radio), etc.) where it is used for its capacity to store and release electrical charges.
  2. Niobium – is added to steel and stainless steel to create high strength low alloy steel. It doubles the strength and toughness of steel due to grain refining while reducing weight. Therefore ferro-niobium alloy is used in oil and gas pipelines, chemical processing equipment, motorcycle frames, car and truck bodies, architectural steel, tool steels, ships’ hull, railroad tracks, nuclear reactors (helping keep reactors safe) or cutting tools in machining operation are fabricated from niobium carbide (to avoid high temperature deformation).
  3. Tin – is an important commodity and is used in hundreds of industrial processes and products.  An alloy of tin and niobium is used to make superconductive wire. Tin is also used as plating to avoid corrosion of various metals and can be found in items such as food packaging, culinary equipment, electronics, tin chemicals, plumbing solders, engineering alloys, pewter and bronze in music and arts, dental amalgams, anti-corrosion and engineering coatings, wine capsules and fire retardants.
  4. Tungsten – has the highest melting point of all metallic elements and because it is extremely stable at high temperatures, it is used in parts of spacecraft and missiles, high-speed cutting tools or rocket engine nozzles. Combined with carbon in tungsten carbide (WC), it becomes a very hard compound, used for tips of drill bits, high-speed cutting tools or mining machinery.

In the DRC there are thousands of independent artisanal miners working to make a subsistence living.  Clearly achieving responsible sourcing of minerals in the DRC is a complex multi-stakeholder process that must be viewed from a logistical, political and financial standpoint. All the various groups have unique and sometimes competing objectives and priorities, and all are claiming to put the best interests of the victims at the forefront of their initiatives.

I’m of the view that talk is cheap and last year President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  It wasn’t just financial reform he signed into law, but in Section 1502, the Conflict Minerals section of the act,  it contains a stipulation that requires public companies to disclose the use of such conflict materials in independent audits filed with their annual financial reports.

Enforcement will be through embarrassment.   If a company uses conflict minerals “necessary to the functionality or production of their products,” the company must disclosed the information. Companies must also detail their due diligence on the source and the chain of custody of the minerals.  If a manufacturer can demonstrate that the metal it uses is not from the DRC, it may state that its metal is “DRC conflict free.”   But if a company cannot determine the source of its mineral after a “reasonable country of origin inquiry” or if the company determines that its metal did originate in the DRC, it must make those disclosures.

Not knowing the source of metal could be problematic for Harley-Davidson, particularly for metal, where such a large percentage is derived from scrap. We don’t fully know the market consequences or the effect on production and metal segregation or on international competitiveness as a result of this law.  It’s possible the law will distort the market and increase costs.

Yet conflict minerals are inevitably getting into the H-D motorcycle manufacturing supply chain and that I, along with you, purchased a motorcycle which contains conflict minerals.  Once we get past the “who’s at fault” mentality we can focus on ideas that will make a difference.  I for one would like to know that my “wind in the face” motorcycle appetite didn’t help fuel human rights atrocities and believe that companies that don’t use conflict materials and can label their products “conflict-free” will discover just how lucrative being conflict-free can be.

Photo courtesy of Engadget.

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If you’re a numbers person there is plenty to analyze about the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Even more so if you’re somehow impacted by the largest death tally in over 10 years.  These tragedies will reverberate throughout the tri-state area for months, and will undoubtedly affect future events.  My sympathies go out to the friends and families.   Even the Cowboy State (WY) has lawmakers reviewing the lack of a helmet law and are considering revisions based on this year’s tally which reversed a downward trend in that state.

Unknown Wedding Couple at Broken Spoke Saloon

Whether you have interest in the amount of tax revenue, the number of weddings, the number of drug arrests, the number of Regional Health System emergency department visits or the amount of trash the rally produced, there are stat’s for everyone.

First off is the tax revenue; the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation stated that revenues at the 2010 Rally increased ($127,804) from last year. Sales and tourism taxes collected so far from temporary vendors totaled $989,911 in the northern Black Hills, which includes Sturgis and communities in Meade and Lawrence counties.  There were 1,207 vendors at the 2010 rally and the gross vendor sales totaled $13.6 MILLION in the Northern Hills, $1.7M more than last year. In the Southern Hills, which includes Pennington County and Rapid City, Custer, Hill City and Keystone, sales were $2.8 MILLION, up from last year’s $2.5M.  Another indicator of attendance came from the city of Sturgis public works director, Randy Nohava, who stated that the rally generated nearly 9-tons of trash per day!

But, there is one stat we won’t get and that is the exact number of law enforcement agents who worked the rally or the costs.  It’s double-top secret.  However, law enforcement is quick to point to the: 1,442 citations issued, including 209 arrests for driving under the influence; 46 felony drug arrests and 183 misdemeanor drug arrests as a result of their extensive presence.

And while I’m on the law enforcement topic, there is one statistic which was very odd. The arrival of a Blackhawk helicopter, courtesy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with their extensive support team. Supposedly the Blackhawk was there to provide additional surveillance of criminals and better mobility for ICE agents.  There has been NO word yet on how many illegal immigrants were apprehended at the 2010 rally.  It turns out that the Blackhawk support was never requested according to local law enforcement and in fact their arrival created almost as much controversy as the May 2010 incident where 3-Blackhawks from the Colorado National Guard descended over Wounded Knee and touch off a flurry of protests.

In terms of attendance, the methodology suggests that estimates are always inflated.  In fact, an article in the Rapid City Journal stated that 2009 numbers were rounded down to 477,000 and that the early estimate number for 2010 is 450,000.  The exact number doesn’t really matter as the bean counters really focus on the tax revenue data as a key indicator.

There were some other interesting capitalism mass-marketing stats.  Ford used the Rally to launch its new 2011 H-D “bling” filled F-150 truck and the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “American Motorcycles” commemorative set of four stamps featuring classic motorcycles and a 1970’s era chopper.  And there are statistics for a good cause too; the 50-mile Legends Ride which raised $52,000, and was split by the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Museum. And finally were the Hamsters MC, who helped raise more than $257,000 for therapies and services at the Rapid City Children’s Care Hospital for children who couldn’t otherwise afford treatment there.

Yep, the rally has lots of protestations and an industry trumpeting its success…

Statistics courtesy of Rapid City Journal.  Photos courtesy of Army/web.

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State Police License Plates

State Police License Plates

Tomorrow marks the start of the Labor Day weekend…meaning NO labor!

Like many of you I’m thankful to have a job and will hit the roads for some relaxing “wind in the face” time over the holiday.  Be safe!

It’s no secret that law enforcement agencies are putting more officers out on the roadways.  In fact, fatal crash statistics tracked by ODOT’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) (.pdf) indicate the Labor Day holiday period is historically the second deadliest on Oregon roads.  On average since 1970, seven traffic-related deaths occur in Oregon each year during Labor Day holiday.  Eleven people died during last year’s Labor Day holiday period in 9 separate fatal traffic crashes.  Nine of the deaths were alcohol or drug involved.

Enjoy the long weekend!

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On occasion I’ve used this blog as a method of outreach to foster and/or promote motorcycle safety.  Full disclosure here — I don’t work for any motorcycle group, the MSF or a state agency, but I do try and represent concerns relating to motorcycle safety and help bring a “voice” to interested parties.

Did you know that motorcycle crashes in Oregon have risen from 443 in 2002 to 736 in 2006? There were 51 motorcyclist fatalities in 2007; 200 motorcyclists have died from 2002 to 2007. Oregon’s motorcycle fatalities are higher than they have been for 20 years.  I’ve written previously on motorcycle safety HEREHERE and on alcohol related accidents HERE

To help address motorcyclist fatalities the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety (GAC-MS) was commissioned and consists of members appointed by the Governor from throughout the state. This committee is charged with the responsibility to advise the Governor and the Transportation Safety Division of ODOT on motorcycle safety. They developed the 2008 Safety Strategic Plan which has the following 6 objectives along with a number of tactics to help decrease motorcycle fatalities:

  1. During 2008, the GAC-MS will hold public “listening” meetings not only in Salem but also around the state in the Portland, Ashland, Bend and Medford areas.
  2. Provide motorcycle operator training to all who need or seek it; increase motorcyclists’ knowledge of methods to increase their safety on the road, including awareness of hazards, motorcycle operating techniques, and conspicuity.
  3. Reduce crashes in which motorcyclists are impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
  4. Ensure that all motorcycle operators riding on public roads are properly licensed.
  5. Increase motorists’ awareness of the presence of motorcycles on the road.
  6. Education, Enforcement, Engineering and EMS issues pertaining to motorcycles will be identified.

View the full strategic plan is HERE (PDF file).

If you have an opinion or want to voice any concerns there are meetings planned on October 19th and November 21st.  The next two meetings are:

Sunday, October 19th at 4:00PM
7 Feathers Center, 146 Chief Miwaleta Lane, Canyonville, OR 97417

and

Friday, November 21st at 6:30PM 
Transportation Safety Division Office, 235 Union Street NE , OR 97301

If you can’t attend the meetings send written input to –

Michele O’Leary
ODOT Motorcycle Safety Program Manager
Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety
235 Union Street NE
Salem, OR 97301-1054
Email

Image courtesy of Texas Department of Safety.

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