Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

Summary: All US electronics manufacturers must investigate the source of common materials used in making virtually any digital product...

The Republic of Congo has been in turmoil for many years and its wealth of minerals have helped fund much of the conflict. Some of those funds come from US consumers who buy electronic gadgets that use Congolese minerals.

The recently passed financial regulation bill carries new regulations that require US companies to disclose if they use minerals from the Congo. These minerals are common in the manufacture of electrical products such as smart phones, laptops and other digital devices.

Mary Beth Sheridan at the Washington Post reports: U.S. financial reform bill also targets 'conflict minerals' from Congo

The issue of "conflict minerals" was barely mentioned during congressional debate on the Wall Street bill. But it has attracted growing concern from an unlikely alliance of conservatives and liberals -- from Sen. Sam Brownback ((R-Kan.) to feminist Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues." Activists hope to ultimately see an international system for curbing the trade, such as the one that has slowed the sale of "blood diamonds" from West Africa.

"This is one of those issues that is below the radar for about 99.9 percent of Americans. . . . Everyone has their cellphone up against their ear, nobody is thinking of Congo or conflict minerals. But everybody's got some, potentially, right next to their ear," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), speaking recently at the Center for American Progress.

The minerals are: tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Manufacturers must label their products that they contain such "conflict minerals." It is up to consumers if they buy such products.

LA Times Editorial:

Congo conflict minerals: U.S. move to source minerals will help defund Congo conflict -

Publicly traded companies will have to submit annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing whether their products contain minerals from Congo or adjacent countries. If they do, the companies must explain what steps they are taking to trace the origin of those minerals, to determine whether they come from mines that fund armed conflict.

No penalties are imposed, but the disclosure of these steps must be made on the firms' websites. Until now, many tech companies have relied on their suppliers to reject conflict minerals, with few actually checking to see that they do. Now the world will see their true level of commitment.

Some do appear committed: Hewlett-Packard, for example, issued a statement of support for the legislation when it passed.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, recently wrote in an email to a customer expressing concern about Apple's use of minerals:

"We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem."

Topics: Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Laptops, Smartphones

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  • "Conflict few??!"

    Oh, brother. Another feel-good cause that accomplishes virtually nothing while distracting from the real issues of the day.

    Maybe Jobs should focus his efforts instead on designing a better iPhone antenna, eh?
    • RE: Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

      @Dorkyman Yes, a better iPhone antenna is a much better cause then taking your responsbility in funding a war which has resulted in 4 million dead people.
    • RE: Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

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  • Yes

    And, I don't care.
    Minerals are fungible.
  • Seriously?

    I mean, come on. How far am I supposed to go as a consumer? So, now I shouldn't buy anything that contains tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold?
    • RE: Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

      @trickytom2 The article refers to the law. The law says we as consumers will get the right information (one of the pillars of a free market). Then we as consumers can make a choice to buy products with conflict free/few minerals or with conflict minerals. Just a matter of your own choice.
  • More tax dollars down the toilet

    But what's that, when we all have jumbo sized money trees growing in our backyards just itching to be fleeced?
  • Sounds easily done

    Like our "war on drugs" right? After all tracking where all our cocaine comes from is cheap and easy. Apple and other tech companies have much better toys than the US military it should be a walk in the park. Sorry, this "we can fix all the worlds problems with money" stuff is wearing thin.
    • RE: Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

      @oncall Maybe we should have a choice in conflict free cocaine and conflict cocaine as well :- ). Then you don't need a war on drugs anymore which costs you billions of tax money per year.
  • RE: Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

    Great article. More needs to be done to prompt the impact of conflict minerals. i'm trying to raise awareness in the UK by running marathons every month in 2010 and also going to the DRC in August to run a marathon there
  • RE: Is there a bloody connection to the Congo in your pocket?

    p.s check out for more details.