A new campaign has been launched to
end the purchase of so-called conflict minerals, which are being mined by armed
groups in the eastern DRC. The minerals are used in electronic equipment, such
as cell phones.
ENOUGH Project at the Center for American Progress is behind the campaign. It
says the illegal mining operations raise money to buy weapons and fuel the
ongoing violence in the DRC, including widespread sexual violence. John
Prendergast, co-founder of the ENOUGH Project, spoke in Washington to VOA
English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the campaign.
turns out the purchases of our laptops and cell phones and MP3 players, digital
cameras, all these different electronics products, have inside them minerals
that are sourced in the Congo that provide the fuel for the deadliest war in
the world. We want to do exactly what happened with the blood diamonds
campaign," he says.
campaign takes its message directly to the companies
manufacturing the electronics products. Prendergast says, "We want to lean on
the corporations to stop their purchasing practices that actually incite
further conflict, incite worse violence against women and girls. And we want
the companies to clean up their purchasing practices so that they only buy
minerals from countries and places and mines which are not producing conflict.
So, basically, free cell phones and laptops."
campaign also calls on consumers to contact manufacturers, asking them to
change their mineral purchasing practices.
what measures could be taken to ensure the minerals do not come from the
eastern DRC, Prendergast says, "It just requires some spot checking. It
requires commitment by the industry to say, ok, we're not going to purchase if
the mine of origin is actually a source of conflict. There are independent
supply chain audits…. And the United Nations has mapped a number of the worst
mines where the violence is greatest."
thinks the new auditing procedures could be put into effect within a year and a
ENOUGH Project strategy paper says, "Electronics companies and consumers
genuinely do not appreciate the complex chain of events that tie the widespread
sexual violence in the Congo with the minerals that power cell phones, laptops,
MP3 players, video games and digital cameras." Prendergast says the reason is
that "it's a relatively new phenomenon. It's the same learning curve many
people had with the blood diamonds in Sierra Leone. Most people didn't realize
10 or 15 years ago that their purchases of diamonds were actually fueling some
of the worst violence in the world in Sierra Leone…and we're learning the
details of it ourselves and sharing it with consumers here so that they can be
Prendergast also says there are other
sources of minerals for digital electronics equipment. "The good news is there
are lots of other countries that do. It may be a penny cheaper, but the good
news is with all three of these minerals – tin, tungsten and tantalum, as well
as with gold – there are many other suppliers. So the industry can go to