From the Congo to Your Phone
If I told you that something most likely on your person at this very moment was helping to fund war in the eastern part of the Congo, which item would you guess? Clothing? Shoes? Perhaps your watch? All good guesses, but all wrong. The answer is in your electronics: your cell phone, iPod, or PDA. In short, rebel groups - whose main tool of intimidation is rape - control mines in eastern Congo that produce an estimated $183 million each year in 4 minerals: gold and the 3 T's, tin, tantalum and tungsten, all used in electronics. These minerals are then smuggled across borders into southeastern Asia, where they are smelted and sent elsewhere to be put in millions of electronic gadgets, which make their way to your pocket. (A more detailed, and visual, explanation by John Prendergast, co-founder of the ENOUGH Project, is available here)
Congress, as well as electronics companies who want their products to be socially and environmentally responsible, has taken notice. In March, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced the Congo Conflict Minerals Act (S.891), which now has 14 co-sponsors. Recently, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced the Congo Trade Minerals Act (H.R.4128), a House companion bill, which has 9 co-sponsors.