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Conflict Minerals
Conflict minerals are natural resources that have been mined and exported illegally from conflict zones. The most common are tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold (also known as 3TG), and cobalt. They are used in an array of products, particularly the electronic goods that make modern life so easy. This includes smartphones, computers, tablets, gaming devices, GPS, cameras, and whatever you are reading this from! Another common use for these materials is jewellery, with gold being the most obvious example. Unfortunately, conflict minerals contribute to a great deal of human suffering. That is because they fund violence, torture, and death in wars in the regions they are extracted from. There is also a lack of labour regulation, meaning hazardous work conditions, child labour, and subpar wages plague mines in these conflict zones.
Most conflict minerals are mined from Africa, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) being the most prevalent example. In countries like these, the government often has trouble regulating and monitoring the thousands of mines that litter the nation. This allows armed groups to control or extort the mines and their workers, with mining income directly funding the violence of many armed groups in the region. The situation also causes suffering as these groups fight each other for control over these mining sites. Beyond the violence perpetrated by militants, the working conditions in the mines are frequently deplorable. The workers, including children, are regularly coerced into work. Conditions are often dangerous, with the lack of government regulation and domination by armed groups preventing workers from fighting for sufficient labour rights.
Choose to buy from companies that have taken steps to trace their supply chains and are attempting to avoid sourcing conflict minerals. As You Sow has ranked the largest electronic companies on their commitment to tracing their supply chains and using legitimately-sourced minerals
What you can do:
Avoid purchasing products made with conflict minerals and buy from companies committed to equitable and conflict-free supply chains. As You Sow's Mining the Disclosures' report offers comprehensive rankings in many industries.
Buy jewellery and electronics second-hand. This avoids supporting conflict minerals while also being less wasteful.
Contact your local member of parliament and express your desire for greater regulation of conflict minerals and further effort in addressing the underlying problems in these regions.