Metal is a vital material that is used in virtually every aspect of daily life. From automotive to electronics, metals play an important role in industrialization and fueling the global economy. Minerals that are smelted to produce the growing demand are mined in various locations throughout the world. While US citizens grow increasingly concerned about the source of the food on their plates, little attention is given to the source of another major resource: metal.
One might think that where major companies buy their raw materials from has no effect on a person's health and well-being. Maybe it's best not to question who has contributed to the steel structure in our car and the circuits in our computers, right? Wrong. Just as companies are criticized for using underpaid child workers to construct the latest mass-produced fashion trend, innocent citizens of all ages are being enslaved to mine metal ore to fund terrorist organizations.
Conflict Minerals vs. Conflict-Free Minerals
In areas including eastern Congo, conflict minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold are extracted out of local mines that are controlled by various armed militant groups. During their operations, civilians are trapped amid the violence between the government and other organizations as they fight to take over smuggling routes and valuable mines. Civilians, both young and old can be forced into slave labor, raped or even murdered by the tyrants all in an attempt to fund their acts of terror through ore profits. The International Rescue Committee has estimated that since 1996, approximately 5.4 million people have died and over 2 million more have been displaced due to war in Congo.
Numerous companies throughout the world are taking action to limit the hundreds of millions of dollars collected yearly by Congo militias by thoroughly tracing the source of their raw materials. Smelters in their supply chain are first verified and periodically audited on their sourcing practices to ensure all minerals are conflict-free. Efforts are also being made to develop a certification program of minerals mined within the Congo that will promote economic development and benefit the community's well being.
Support From Society
Over the last 15 years, social groups have effectively shed light on the exploitation of natural resources in eastern Congo and crimes against the Congolese citizens. Vast amounts of reports conducted by the United Nations and Congolese researches pressured governments and global leaders to take action against their indirect aid to the social injustices. Organizations such asEnough Project and its campaign, Raise Hope for Congo are US based movements orchestrated by theCenter for American Progress. To learn more about their positive effect on the crisis in Congo and how to help further their cause, visit their websites.
Government Laws & Initiatives
In July 2010, the US passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Section 1502 of the act requires that all publicly traded companies trace and audit their supply chains to ensure that the raw materials contained in their products are not connected to conflict in Congo. Furthermore, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted specific regulations for the provision in August 2012 that met much resistance from the US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.
SEC Reporting Requirements:
Since the law and regulations took effect, industrial reform has gained leverage among companies around the world. The pressures from government mandated transparency within corporate supply chains and growing social movements have significantly limited the amount of controlled mines. In October 2014, an open letter was released that discussed progress made by the Dodd-Frank law. Thirty-one experts, former ambassadors and Congolese civil society leaders stated that half of the world's smelters are now conflict-free. In addition, they speculated that although corporations were doing their part to cut off funding to the militant groups, further action is still needed including programs for the mining communities and government reforms within the region.