Located in the central area of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the world’s richest gold deposits. In addition, Congo’s underground is also rich with diamonds, colored metals, and rare metals resources, which is why Congo is also called the “Geological Miracle.” With such abundant natural resources, Congo should have been a rich and prosperous country, however, decades of fighting over these natural resources has resulted in continuous civil war in Congo, in which more than 4 million of Congo’s people have lost their lives. In Congo, local armed forces and multinational companies collude to force local civilians to work in mines, sometimes even refusing to pay them for their work. These local armed forces and multinational companies have made fortunes, while the people of Congo suffer from inhumane torture.
The head of the “Global Watch” international organization, Patrick Airey, says: “This is called the resource curse. From the colonial period to the present, Congo (DRC) has always been just a temporary storage ground for its rich resources, its people have never been the real beneficiaries of these resources.”
This is why the rare metals that come from this area, including cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, and gold are referred to as “blood minerals” by the press. These metals are used in information and communications technology products that we are familiar with, such as mobile phones and laptop computers.
The types and quantities of metals used in electronic components differ by the type and model numbers of the electronic components. The following table summarizes the main metals used in electronic components. The social issues resulting from the usage of cobalt, gold, tantalum, tin, palladium, and tungsten that comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo have already attracted the attention of end users and NGO’s.
Metals have a variety of sources, including recycled metals, mined metals, and inventory metals, whereas mined metals are the predominate source. Using tantalum as an example, the following diagram shows its main sources:
Metal mining has brought enormous economic benefits to developed countries and developing countries by, for example, accelerating economic growth, improving quality of life, and optimizing public infrastructure. On the other hand, mining has in many ways also brought about many negative effects on society and the environment. We must understand that the benefits brought about by mining are actually obtained at the expense of many social and environmental issues.
1. Environmental issues
From an environmental perspective, the mining processes for most metals affect the environment in the following ways:
2. Social division issues
Although mining operations do help in the development of education, health care, and basic infrastructure（such as hospitals, schools, railroads, and communications networks）, there still exist many social problems in the process of mining, including prostitution, the spread of AIDS, and regional violence and conflicts.
3. Forced labor
4. Abusive child labor
5.Violation of women’s worker rights
6.Not paying wages to workers according to law
7.Human rights violations and conflicts
8.Health and safety issues
The human rights violations and conflicts caused by mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo has already resulted in great concern from the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) as well as the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, and they have established a work team to better understand the effects mining operations have on society and the environment, and to decide if and how to take action to improve these work environments.
Make IT fair is a new online group formed by organizations from all over Europe, which has called upon companies such as Sony, Nokia, HP, and Philips to be aware and show concern for the potential moral and environmental risks that arise from their metal raw materials procurement processes.
Furthermore, the Dutch organization SOMO has also investigated these issues and has disclosed many existing issues regarding the health and environmental problems associated with the local miners. SOMO’s Esther de Haan says, although consumer electronics products are and important consumer of many metal raw materials, many of these metal raw materials are mined and produced in high-risk countries such as China, Russia, and Africa. The consumer electronics industry has not directly mined these metals. To this day, they have still not attempted to investigate the source of these metal raw materials, but we will make sure that they show concern for the origins of their metal raw materials and ensure that the IT industry treats fairly all the people around the world.
The social and environmental problems caused by Congo’s illegal mining areas have attracted the attention of Sunrex’s customers.
In response to customer demands and to fulfill our corporate social and environmental responsibilities, Sunrex has requested that its suppliers from the metals supply chain bear the following responsibilities:
Do not use metals from illegal mines or mines where mining operations are performed under poor working conditions.
Request upstream suppliers to not use metals from illegal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Look back on all products that contain “blood mineral” metals, such as gold (Au), palladium (Pd¬), tantalum (Ta), tin (Sn), and tungsten (W), to identify the mining areas where these metals came from.
Work with Sunrex and Sunrex’s customers to investigate the source of metals to ensure that metals originating from illegal mining areas are not used.
News reports on the illegal mining areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo:﹕