From Mine to Mobile Phone: The Conflict Minerals Supply Chain


Enough experts lead you down the path of the 3Ts—tin, tantalum, tungsten—and gold from the mines of Eastern Congo all the way to your cell phone.


Conflict Minerals in your Phone

Tin solder is used to affix components to circuit boards.
Source: / quapan

“I hear these minerals are used in mobile phones, but I don’t know how. Why don’t the big companies make sure they are not buying from the FDLR? They have that power and money, surely.” –Robert, youth civil society activist, Bukavu

Finally, the refiners sell Congo’s minerals onto the electronics companies. The electronics industry is the single largest consumer of the minerals from eastern Congo. The now-processed metals usually go through a few sub-stages here—first to circuit board and computer chip manufacturers, then to cell phone and other electronics manufacturers, and finally to the mainstream electronics companies such as Intel, Apple, Nokia, Hewlett Packard, Nintendo, etc. These companies then make the products that we all know and buy—cell phones, portable music players, video games, and laptop computers. Because companies do not currently have a system to trace, audit, and certify where their materials come from, all cell phones and laptops may contain conflict minerals from Congo.

The electronics industry is not the only one that uses the 3Ts and gold, but it is the largest. Other industries with a significant stake include tin can manufacturers, industrial tool and light bulb companies for tungsten, and aerospace and defense contractors, as well as the banking and jewelry industries in the case of gold.

Jeweler Brian Leber makes it a priority to know to that his precious metals come from only recycled materials.
CBS' 60 Minutes highlighted Congo's deadly trade of gold.