Conflict Minerals

The choices we make as consumers can have consequences that affect communities around the globe. I believe that it is important for us to recognize this, and take action when appropriate.

During the 2012 legislative session I sponsored a bill that addresses the link between minerals found in our electronic products and the violence in the eastern Congo. Thankfully, this bill — HB 425 — is now law, making Maryland the second state to begin a path towards becoming conflict free.

This bill was especially important to me because I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia near the Congolese border from 2002-2005.

More on conflict minerals and the eastern Congo from the Enough Project’s website:

“For more than a century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by regional conflict and a deadly scramble for its vast natural resources. In fact, greed for Congo’s natural resources has been a principal driver of atrocities and conflict throughout Congo’s tortured history. In eastern Congo today, these mineral resources are financing multiple armed groups, many of whom use mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations, thereby securing control of mines, trading routes, and other strategic areas.

Profit from the mineral trade is one of the main motives for armed groups on all sides of the conflict in eastern Congo – the deadliest since World War II. Armed groups earn hundreds of millions of dollars per year by trading four main minerals: the ores that produce tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold. This money enables the militias to purchase large numbers of weapons and continue their campaign of brutal violence against civilians, with some of the worst abuses occurring in mining areas. The majority of these minerals eventually wind up in electronic devices such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers. Given the lack of a transparent minerals supply chain, American consumers have no way to ensure that their purchases are not financing armed groups that regularly commit atrocities, including mass rape.

The conflict minerals problem is complicated, and the suffering in Congo is immense. But there is good news: because we as electronics consumers are tied so directly to the problem, we can actually play a role in ending the violence.

We must raise our collective voice as consumers and demand conflict-free electronics. By pressuring electronics companies to remove conflict minerals from their supply chains, we can help remove fuel from the fire in Congo.”

By Authority: Friends of Shane Robinson; Mary Robinson, Treasurer.