While the story of conflict minerals has drawn international attention in recent years through the feature film Blood Diamond or the recent 60 Minutes special, illegal mining industries continue to fund bloody wars around the globe.
1. Conflict minerals are precious natural resources that are mined and exploited as governments, rebel groups, and mining companies struggle to control the industry and the profit it produces. Conflict minerals include cobalt, diamonds, gold, copper, tin, coltan, and more.
2. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest producer of conflict minerals. Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Liberia, and Angola also top the list.
3. It is estimated that armed rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo generate an annual profit of $180 million in conflict minerals. The average annual income for a Congolese civilian is $184.00 or 50 cents per day. Meanwhile, the legitimate diamond trade creates more than 10 million jobs and provides sustainable economy for areas rich in precious minerals.
4. Three hundred thousand carats of diamonds are mined annually by slave labor in the rebel-controlled regions of Ivory Coast. Conflict diamonds are sold to fund violent conflicts. An estimated 65 percent of the world’s diamonds come from African countries.
5. Illegal conflict mineral activity is not limited to Africa. Each year, Russian crime groups illegally mine more than a billion dollars worth of amber, equal to about 300 metric tons.
6. In the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, mining of conflict minerals is directly related to the sexual violence against women and the exploitation of children used as slave laborers. In 2009, more than 7,000 rape cases were reported by women and girls in Congo—and countless others go unreported. Children are often forced to serve as soldiers in the fight of rebel groups to maintain control over a region’s mineral resources.
7. In 2003, the United Nations created a policy in dealing with conflict diamonds called the Kimberley Process Certification System to block the flow of conflict diamonds into the world wide diamond trade. Member nations must certify that all diamond exports are produced through legitimated mining and sales. The World Diamond Council estimates that only one percent of the world’s diamond market continues to be made up of conflict diamonds.
8. The three T’s of conflict minerals—Tin, Tantalum, and Tungsten—generate more than $130 million in profit for armed rebel groups in Congo. Tin is used in many electronic products as the solder for circuit boards. More than half of the world’s tin ends up in consumer electronics. Tantalum is used to store electricity in consumer products like iPods, digital cameras and mobile phones. Approximately 65 to 80 percent of the world’s tantalum is used in electronic products. Tungsten generates about $7 million in profit for armed groups each year. Tungsten is the extremely dense metal that makes your cell phone vibrate.
9. Illegal and unregulated mining of conflict minerals can wreak havoc on the environment by poisoning water sources, forcing migration, and damaging soil that would be used for agricultural purposes.
10. The Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 backed by Congressman Jim McDermott calls for full transparency in the Congo mining industry. The bill has yet to be passed.