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Cleaning Up Conflict Minerals

 

Source: NEWSWATCH      September 17, 2012       add this article

 

Valuable minerals mined in the barbaric conditions of armed conflict are termed ‘blood minerals’ or ‘conflict minerals.’ These are prominently found in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the epicenter for the illicit trade of these metal-minerals. The profits of conflict minerals are used by rebel forces to raise funds for violence.

The four chief minerals mined in this region are 3Ts, i.e. tungsten, tin, and tantalum, plus gold. They are mostly used by the electronics industry, but also appear in sports equipment and jewelry.

As per the statistics of
ITRI, more than 50% of the global tin supply is used in solders. Also, the U.S Geological Survey estimates that the tantalum capacitors for use in automotive electronics, cell phones, and other applications account for over 60% of total use of the metal. The tungsten metal has a huge sphere of use. From heat and water resistance applications to being used as cutting tools, it is profoundly used in industry. While all of these minerals are of importance in our daily lives, perhaps most revered of these is gold, globally used as jewelry and coinage. (See the National Geographic Magazine feature on gold.)

The other side of conflict minerals is misery, due to the extortion of people planted as labours at the mines. Sometimes “hired” at gun-point, these people are forced to work under horrendous conditions, with horrible tools, tough locations and tons of lifting. As much as 35% of Congo’s total mineral profits goes to armed groups, and the mine-related revenue of these groups is a whooping 75% of their total revenue.

But to combat this ongoing trade, government policies have been framed and implemented. The U.S government’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act (signed in 2010 into law) states in its Section 1502 that it’s mandatory for American firms to track and audit their raw material supplies to make sure that they are not associated with mines ruled by the brutal armed forces.

Out of a total of 12,000 companies affected by the Dodd-Frank Act, as many as 1,200 companies have reported the cases, forming 10% of the target volume. While the Dodd-Frank Act has been said to reduce the revenue of militias, there is still rampant smuggling of conflict minerals, which can be hard to track.

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