Conflict Minerals

Jump to: Overview | Solutions | Our Initiatives

Conflict Minerals in Congo

Your mobile phone, your jewelry, your computer, and your gaming system all fuel fighting in eastern Congo.

Overview

Armed groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by trading conflict minerals. These minerals can be found in all our electronic devices. Government troops and armed groups fight to control mines and smuggling routes, murdering and raping civilians to fracture the structure of society.

What Are Conflict Minerals?

Gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten—the "three T's"—are mined in eastern Congo and used in the production of consumer electronics products, jewelry, and many other products. 

Locals in mining communities are 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 demand for responsible sourcing for minerals from Congo.

The Dodd-Frank Legislation

As a part of the U.S. government's Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, signed into law in July 2010, Section 1502 requires American 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. The Dodd-Frank Act provides the commercial leverage to catalyze reform.

In August 2012 the Securities and Exchange Commission issued rules and regulations for how companies should report on the source of the minerals in question: gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit against the SEC regarding the rules, but companies are already implementing the law by tracing their supply chains, as of February 1, 2013.

Go here to read Dodd-Frank FAQs and here for more information on the reporting requirements for companies.

Solutions

Congo-sourced, conflict-free electronics and jewelry:

Just like buying organic produce, fair trade coffee, or not buying blood diamonds, consumers should be able to shop for conflict-free electronics. (Read our company rankings report.) We at the Enough Project believe that 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:

  1. Tracing: where companies work with their suppliers to verify the smelters in their mineral supply chain. Smelters are the chokepoint in the supply chain
  2. 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
  3. Certifying a clean trade in Congo: development of an in-region mineral certification system that enables the traceability and certification of minerals mined in the DRC, which includes independent monitoring

Our Initiatives

Conflict-Free Campus Initiative  - The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative is a nation-wide 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.

Go here for more information on how to get involved with CFCI.

Enough Project
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 682-1611 • Fax: (202) 682-6140

© 2014 Center for American Progress. All Rights Reserved