Many laptop computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipment used around the world contain minerals mined in conflict zones such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Similar to the blood diamond scenario, which gained some attention from the 2006 Hollywood film of the same name, and more lately by Naomi Campbell’s well-publicized appearance in International Criminal Court in The Hague, conflict minerals fuel wars and atrocities in undemocratic countries. Rebel and militia groups are funded by the huge profits from gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin mining in the DCR, though miners receive only around $1-5 US per day.

These militias make millions and millions of dollars. We estimated that they made about $180 million from trading in these minerals last year and they’re able to continue their existence and their armed struggle on the basis of this trade.

–Sasha Lezhnev, Enough

US President Barack Obama recently signed a new provision requiring US companies to submit annual reports to divulging whether their products contain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo or neighboring states. Several electronics companies like Intel, Motorola and HP have initiated stronger policies of their own accord.

This is a difficult and complex problem, partly because what funds militias who commit atrocities, also pays the meager wages of poor miners.

For more details on the story see the following report from the Voice of America:

Tracing DRC’s Conflict Minerals a Daunting Task

Also check out this video report from Time Magazine:

Conflict Minerals: Is There Blood on Your Laptop?

Additional resources:

Enough project – Eastern Congo