A modern-day household in the United States has 24 electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops. All these devices contain precious minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. These four minerals are sometimes referred to as 3TG or ‘conflict minerals’.
What are conflict minerals?
According to the European Commission, conflict minerals can be described as following:
“In politically unstable areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), armed groups often use forced labour to mine minerals which they then sell to fund their activities, for example to buy weapons.”
The definition of conflict minerals may not be that well known by the public. So-called ‘blood diamonds’ are a better known phenomenon and the definitions of conflict minerals and blood diamonds are very similar.
What is happening in these mines?
When armed groups in countries such as the DRC have control over a mine, they exploit and oppress the local people, often resulting in modern slavery and child labour. The working conditions of these local people can be extremely hazardous since there are no regulations and safety equipment in place. This can lead to all kinds of health problems such as over-exertion, respiratory ailments, headaches, joint problems, hearing and vision loss.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) there are currently about one million children working in mines and this number is increasing.
There have been examples of children as young as four participating in mining. The children are working in all stages of the process - underground or in the narrow tunnels and shafts, pulling up and/or carrying heavy bags, digging and crushing ore. Situations have occurred where children have been exposed to toxic chemicals, leading to death.
Preventing conflict minerals in supply chains
Companies have several reasons why they want to see change. Alongside ‘making the industry better for everyone working in it’, as well as personal reasons for wanting to avoid child labour in their business, laws, regulations and more business-related reasons are equally as important.
There are multiple initiatives who are working on preventing conflict minerals in supply chains. One of these initiatives is iTSCI, by the International Tin Association. ChainPoint is proud to say to iTSCi uses our software to make traceability in the tin supply chain possible. You can read more about iTSCI here.
If you would like to know more about how technology can help with preventing conflict minerals in supply chains you can read our solution paper on conflict minerals here.