Your mobile phone, your jewelry, your computer, and your gaming system all contain minerals that fuel fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by trading conflict minerals. These minerals can be found in many of the products we use every day, such as cell phones and laptops. Government troops and armed groups in Congo fight to control mines and smuggling routes, murdering and raping civilians to fracture the structure of society.
What Are Conflict Minerals?
Tin, tantalum, tungsten (the "3 T's") and gold are mined in eastern Congo and are in all consumer electronics products, as well as products from the jewelry, automotive, aerospace, medical equipment, and many other industries.
Locals in mining communities are often forced to take part in the illicit mining economy. Money earned from the sale of conflict minerals is used for personal profit and to further violent causes.
Minerals are smuggled out of Congo through neighboring countries and then shipped to smelters around the world for refinement. Once minerals are processed in this way, it’s difficult to trace their origin. Conflict minerals easily make their way to the United States and all over the world in consumer products.
We must work together to bring about an end to the trade in conflict minerals. Together, we can create a consumer demand for conflict-free minerals from Congo.
The Dodd-Frank Legislation
As a part of the U.S. government's Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law in July 2010, Section 1502 requires publicly traded companies to ensure that the raw materials they use to make their products are not tied to the conflict in Congo, by tracing and auditing their mineral supply chains. Dodd-Frank 1502 provides the legal leverage to catalyze reform.
In August 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued its Conflict Minerals Rule along with guidance for how companies should report on the source of the minerals in question: tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit against the SEC regarding the rules that is still ongoing, but companies are already implementing the law and the first reports were filed on June 2nd 2014.
Conflict-free products containing minerals from Congo
Just like buying organic produce, fair trade coffee, or not buying blood diamonds, consumers should be able to shop for conflict-free electronics. (See our company rankings)
Companies that use conflict minerals—mainly electronics and jewelry companies—should thoroughly trace and audit their supply chains to ensure that their products are not financing atrocities in eastern Congo. In addition, it is critical to build up a clean minerals trade in Congo so that miners can work in decent conditions, and the minerals can go toward benefiting communities instead of warlords. The certification system for minerals in Congo and the region must be strengthened so that companies can purchase clean, conflict-free minerals from Congo and the region.
Certain companies have begun tracing and auditing their supply chains because of the conflict minerals legislation contained in Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. The Motorola Solutions for Hope Project, the Conflict-Free Tin Initiative, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region’s certification system are important examples of progress in the region. These pilot projects, however, must go much further, and independent monitoring must become a part of the certification system.
Components of a conflict-free, Congo-sourced system:
- Tracing: where companies work with their suppliers to verify the smelters in their mineral supply chain. Smelters are the chokepoint in the supply chain
- Auditing: a conflict-free smelter program that enables third-party validation of a smelter’s sourcing practices and a determination of whether its sources are conflict free
- Certifying a clean trade in Congo: development of an in-region mineral certification system that enables the traceability and certification of minerals mined in Congo, which includes independent monitoring
For more information on proposed solutions, see our reports:
Conflict-Free Campus Initiative - The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative is an international campaign to build the consumer voice for conflict-free electronics, such as cell phones, laptops, and other devices that will not finance war in eastern Congo.
Raise Hope for Congo - The Raise Hope for Congo campaign aims to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the human rights of all Congolese citizens and work towards ending the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo. The campaign provides activists with the necessary tools to educate themselves and their communities about the conflict in eastern Congo, the role of conflict minerals funding the conflict, and the effects of sexual violence as a weapon of war used against Congolese women and girls.
Electronics Company Rankings - In 2012, the Enough Project ranked the largest electronics companies on their efforts toward using and investing in conflict-free minerals in their products. Our consumer action guide will help you understand what actions companies are (or are not) taking to contribute to the creation of a clean minerals trade in Congo, and ultimately, the reduction of conflict there.