Are You Unintentionally Buying Conflict Minerals?

No one intentionally wants to support a human rights conflict. You probably intentionally don’t buy blood diamonds in order to avoid supporting the humanitarian havoc diamond mining has fostered in Africa. That’s a good start. However, you are probably unwittingly supporting another cruel industry by unknowingly buying electronics that contain conflict minerals.

What are conflict minerals?

‘Conflict minerals’ are currently defined by the US government as tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold, which are mineral derivatives known as 3TG.

Think you don’t buy items containing conflict minerals? Think again. Conflict minerals can be found in:

  • Electronics
  • Batteries
  • Light bulbs
  • Drills
  • Wires
  • LED lights
  • Gas tanks
  • Roofing
  • GPS devices
  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Wires
  • Watches
  • Microwaves
  • Camera lenses
  • Fountain and ballpoint pens
  • and more…

Closeup of big gold nugget

These minerals are critical to the production of useful electronic devices, from circuit boards to car batteries, as well as jewelry. They can be incredibly destructive to the areas in which they are sourced.

Where do conflict minerals come from?

The majority of these minerals come from war-torn areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others. And they are financing a bloody conflict and human rights abuses.

The Congo is incredibly rich in 3TG minerals, but they remain one of the poorest nations in the world due to ongoing conflict and war.

For years, rebel groups have seized control over the mines, selling off their profitable minerals while enlisting AK-47-wielding child soldiers to patrol and fend off government interference. Since the rebel groups are so well-funded from the mining profits, this keep the country in a perpetual state of instability, poverty, and severe violence.

According to National Geographic, “It doesn’t make any sense, until you understand that militia-controlled mines in eastern Congo have been feeding raw materials into the world’s biggest electronics and jewelry companies and at the same time feeding chaos. Turns out your laptop—or camera or gaming system or gold necklace—may have a smidgen of Congo’s pain somewhere in it.”

And that’s the problem.

Many of us are unwittingly supporting the incredibly violent conflicts in Congo and beyond simply by buying new tech. But there are some companies making an effort to provide cleanly sourced materials, while others continue to choose to look the other way.

How to Avoid Conflict Minerals in Your Tech

According to The Enough Project’s 2017 rankings, Apple and Google are doing the best job at developing conflict-free supply chains and responsible sourcing practices. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but they’ve made a lot of progress.

In contrast, companies like Sears, Walmart, and Neiman Marcus are doing almost nothing to address the serious issues going on. They source minerals more or less indiscriminately.

Aerial view of mining

The good news is that progress is being made.

As of 2017, 79 percent of Congo’s tantalum, tin, and cobalt miners are no longer under threat from armed soldiers. However, 64 percent of Congo’s gold miners still work under serious conflict. And demand for these mined materials in the tech industry is only growing.

Make sure the tech brands you buy from source conflict-free materials by checking out the Enough Project’s annual ratings or contacting companies directly. Let them know that you are done being part of the problem.

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43 comments

Angela K
Angela K3 months ago

noted

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

Also, why is there NO information of the packages, products itself from what country it is originating. When I would read Congo on my batteries, I would not buy them. This Congo is the best known country for such disgusting practices, but I think that Nigeria, and many other countries in Africa and OTHER CONTINENTS large industries are also based on this outrageous practice.

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx4 months ago

Chockingd how many products are made with "conflict minerals". However, the big question is : HOW CAN WE, AS CONSUMERS, KNOW WHAT PRODUCTS ARE "SAFE" TO BUY AND WHICH NOT ???". You mention again chains of supermarkets that pay no attention at all to what they sell. Luckily, I work with a Mac / Apple and Google, purely by hazard, but my light bulbs, batteries, and many other objects, I have NO CLUE what is advisable or not. Care2 is an INTERNATIONAL organization. You have members in Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia and South America. How can WE ,know what products / brands we can buy and where. I am convinced that a lot of products are made by companies, having their head office in the U.S., but are sold on other continents under other names.! A little more information from the authors of these articles would be highly appreciated by us.... WE ALSO want a better world. Even more than the U.S. in many aspects. I have no knowledge of another organization like Care2 applicable to other places in the world. I am convinced that you understand that all these other consumers have to right to be well informed and therefore, I beg you to extend your horizon in giving us usable information about such worldwide concerns. I will not be the only one who would appreciate this very much. Thanks for taking that into consideration.

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lynda l
lynda l4 months ago

According to The Enough Project’s 2017 rankings, Apple and Google are doing the best job at developing conflict-free supply chains and responsible sourcing practices.

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Winn A
Winn Adams4 months ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adams4 months ago

Noted

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Kathy G
Kathy G4 months ago

Thank you

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn4 months ago

Noted

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Carole R
Carole R4 months ago

Thanks for posting.

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