Living in an era of rapid technological change and advancement, we are using an increasing number of components to produce our technology. (Kiggins, 2015) The resources which make up these components must be “taken from the earth with machines and human labour to then be processed, graded, sorted and recombined to become the micro-chips, the computer screens, the mobile devices” (Reading, 2014) which we all use. Some of these resources are referred to as conflict minerals; natural resources which are extracted in conflict zones/countries suffering conditions of conflict. The four most discussed conflict minerals are gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten (and their corresponding ores). (Enough Project). These are often referred to as 3TG.
A region which is often discussed when looking at conflict minerals is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has suffered mass conflict mineral atrocities due to the western consumer demand for more technology. (Usanov, et al. 2013) The DRC is said to have $24 trillion mineral deposits, therefore is the largest sufferer of conflict due to mineral extraction. It is important to note that conflict in the DRC is not solely a result of conflict minerals, it is due to political differences, ethnic differences, and agricultural land. However, minerals are a large contributor to the problem and increase the severity of the conflict, due to all profits being used to fund violence.
The Eastern DRC has rich deposits of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. The mining of these minerals in the DRC have helped funding of the ongoing conflict in the Congo. This is done in two ways. Rebel groups, local militias, or units of the Congolese army may directly control mines, guarding them using weapons, and charging tax on anyone entering. Or, the same groups may illegally tax the transport (and often smuggling) and trading of minerals along certain routes. (BSR, May 2010) It has been widely noted that revenue from mineral sales go to warlords, leaders of militia groups, and the Congolese army, who control mining areas and have been known to commit brutal acts of violence, including rape as a form of weapon. (Parker and Vadheim, 2016) The mining of Tantalum for example, has aided and fuelled violence in the DRC. (TED TALK). The profits from the mining and smuggling of Tantalum, and other conflict minerals, are used to purchase weapons by rebels and militia groups.
It is high western demand for electrical goods which demands the large number of rare minerals like those in the DRC. Minerals are a very small part of electrical goods, but a vital one. The supply chain of these minerals is not always traced effectively, and pressure is continuously put on technology companies to demand fair regulation regarding mining and trade on these minerals. There have been developments in regards to regulation and fair trade of said minerals, and there is plans for more. Therefore, it is necessary to critically look at what is being done, and what needs to be done in the future.