Congo Bleeds for Our Electronics
Tonight, CBS’ 60 Minutes exposes how the trade in Congolese minerals, used in cell phones, laptops, and dozens of other electronics made by Apple, Nokia, Nintendo and other companies, is fueling the deadliest war since World War II. While the electronics industry, the largest consumer of the minerals from eastern Congo, profits from cheap raw materials, an estimated $180 million annually goes to armed groups in Congo from the trade in four main minerals: the ores that produce the metals tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold.
Electronic devices require these specialized metals. Tin is used to affix components to circuit boards; tantalum is a vital element of capacitors; tungsten is used in vibrate alert functions and LCD displays. But mineral mines in Eastern Congo, one of the world’s largest sources of these minerals, are controlled by armed groups who perpetrate some of the world’s worst human rights abuses, while profiting from taxes on the trade in conflict minerals as well as the exploitation of local workers and communities.
Some companies, including HP, Dell, Intel, and Motorola, are developing a multi-industry forum to help develop transparency, accountability and assurance mechanisms in the supply chain of extracted metals. The Congo Conflict Minerals Act, introduced by Senators Brownback, Durbin, and Feingold, would create State Department and other efforts to investigate and eliminate minerals trade related to conflict, and encourage electronics companies to exercise due diligence when purchasing raw materials.
Consumers can also take action. By sending a message that we will not buy from companies that ignore the human rights violations committed by suppliers of raw materials, we can use the power of the marketplace to help end violence in the Congo.