A Brief History and the Definition of Conflict Minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
For more than a century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by regional conflict. One of the causes of these conflicts is the deadly scramble for its vast natural resources. In eastern Congo today, these mineral resources are financing multiple armed groups, who use brutal violence, including rape, to intimidate and control local populations. The DRC today is considered the worst place in the world to be a woman. Through these practices which also include the abduction of children for use as soldiers, the groups are able to secure control of mines, trading routes, and other strategic areas.
Armed groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars per year by trading four main minerals: the ores that produce tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. This money enables the militias to purchase large numbers of weapons and continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas. The minerals are then illegally exported to neighboring countries. They are then shipped to areas like South East Asia where they are processed and mixed with “legitimate” minerals. Companies then buy these minerals and use them in electronic devices such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers. Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers have no way to ensure that their purchases are not financing armed groups that regularly commit atrocities.