Robin Wright targets Congo’s ‘conflict minerals’ violence with new campaign – by Ed Pilkington (The Guardian – May 17, 2016)

House of Cards star Robin Wright has launched a campaign with Congolese and American activists to end the pillage of Congo’s vast mineral resources and break the cycle of devastating wars that have claimed more than five million lives.

The campaign will target US tech companies and political leaders in an attempt to push for greater transparency in the mining of so-called “conflict minerals” such as coltan that have aggravated the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Wright has produced and narrated a new film, When Elephants Fight, to be shown in 50 university campuses around the US as part of what she and her fellow campaigners hope will become a movement for reform under the banner #StandWithCongo.

“I felt a personal responsibility to step up, take action, create a voice,” Wright told the Guardian after presenting the film in New York. A longtime advocate for human rights in Congo, she said her commitment stemmed from the realization that big US electronics companies were inadvertently encouraging corruption, funding militia groups and prolonging brutal conflicts by entering into mining deals with anonymous shell companies for minerals used in their smartphones and laptops.

“We are using these devices all day, every day, for our convenience and it’s basically perpetuating a war. I find it unacceptable that as consumers we allow this to go on,” she said.

Wars in eastern Congo, both domestic and international, have plunged the country into a state of almost permanent instability since the early 1990s, killing at least 5.4 million people and displacing a further 2 million. The area is rich in tungsten, tin and gold, while the southern area of Katanga produces 80% of the world’s cobalt, a metal widely used in rechargeable lithium ion batteries.

Overall, the country is estimated to have $24tn worth of minerals under its soil. Yet despite such enormous natural wealth, it remains one of the most destitute places in the world, with one in seven children dying before the age of five, according to Unicef.

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