Conflict Minerals-Joan Mitsinikos

In 2006 the movie Blood Diamond came out. For those of you who have not seen the movie it shows the atrocities of diamond mining in the Sierra Leone. Something similar is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is not the same as the Republic of the Congo. Minerals there are being mined for everyday things we take for gmap_drc_smallranted.

Here is an extremely brief overview of the DRC’s history: Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries European merchants came to the DCR for the abundance of resources, minerals, and slaves. In 1879 the DRC was established as a colony by King Leopold II of Belgium. Under Belgian control millions of Congolese were killed or died due to poor working conditions. It is not until June of 1960 that the DRC becomes independent. In 1996 a civil war started, which drew in some neighboring countries. The war ended in 2003. In 2006 the DRC had their first free elections in 4 decades. Joseph Kabila won the election. The DRC has a history of being a place of corruption and conflict.


The four main minerals being mined there are tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. These things can be found in automobiles, sports equipment, jewelry, and electronics. Without tantalum phones would be silent, tungsten is what makes phones vibrate, tin is used in circuit boards, and gold coats wiring. The militias are able to get workers by threatening them and their families. Workers are forced to work as a way to “protect” themselves and their families. They are held at gun point and physically forced to work. If this is a not enough to scare workers and keep them in line rape is used as to humiliate and silence workers and their wives. The militias running these mines make millions of dollars from trading conflict minerals. The money made is used to buy weapons such as guns and grenades. The minerals are smuggled into neighboring countries and eventually shipped to Asia where they are refined and mixed in with other minerals from around the world. The minerals are processed and turned into finished products that are distributed around the world.

In 2010 Obama passed the Dodd Frank Consumer Protection Act. This law requires companies to state where the minerals they use in their products come from. As a result the mineral revenue created by militias has been reduced to 65%. IBM has started making conflict free electronics and hopes that in the future they will be able to make all their products with conflict free materials and minerals.

After reading all this it might be kind of hard to relate all this back to what we have learned in class, but there are actually a couple of things that are similar to what we’ve learned. For example Europeans coming in and exploiting resources and labor forces is nothing new. The British came to America, turned it into a colony, and exploited their resources. Another example would be putting something bad into products. People are allowing these big meat and poultry companies to feed their animals things like corn and soy beans, things they should not be eating. So why are they allowing conflict minerals to be put in electronics?armed-groups_0 One could argue that the meat example is invalid because it is something people are ingesting and it affects their bodies as well, but these conflict minerals are affecting people’s lives and whether or not they are given the right to live.


4 thoughts on “Conflict Minerals-Joan Mitsinikos

  1. earthhist Post author

    This was a very informative post, and I learned a lot from it! I could really feel the emotion you put into it. You did a great job explaining the background behind this issue, and connecting it to what we’ve read in class, as hard as that seems. This is a really relevant issue because it connects to us– our everyday actions influence and perhaps heighten this problem.

    Another thing you could connect conflict minerals to is Food, Inc., which talked about how many Americans do not know where their food comes from or what is in it. I would assume that many people don’t know where the resources/minerals for their electronics come from, or how they are mined.

  2. awshue

    I enjoyed this expose post Joan. I don’t think many people have any clue that this type of activity even takes place in Africa, I wasn’t and only thought it applied to diamonds. Its scary to think that the materials made from the minerals are being bought and sold by unassuming people paid for with blood. Hopefully the Dodd-Frank can further reduce this blood trade. I wonder if the DRC has tried to do anything to regulate this trade?

  3. Molly Bass Post author

    This is a great post! I had no clue that this happened in DRC. Its awful to think that this is what is done in order for us to own cell phones and other luxurious electronics. I appreciate the efforts being done to minimize this issue, as well as inform the public.

  4. christian smith

    Awesome post, it was very put together and easy to understand the main issues at hand thanks to the background you gave about it. I also agree with a reply from first reply relating this to the movie food inc. Before this article I had a minimal idea of where it came from and problems to the environment caused hadn’t much crossed my mind!


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