Meet Dorsen, 8, who mines cobalt to make your smartphone work – by Alex Crawford (Sky – February 2017)

A Sky News investigation has found children as young as four working in Congolese mines where cobalt is extracted for smartphones.

The mineral is an essential component of batteries for smartphones and laptops, making billions for multinationals such as Apple and Samsung, yet many of those working to extract it are earning as little as 8p a day in desperately dangerous conditions.

With little regulation requiring companies to trace their cobalt supply lines, and most of the world’s cobalt coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the chances are your smartphone contains a battery with cobalt mined by children in the central African nation.

Read more

Apple, Intel and more oppose scrapping U.S. conflict-mineral regulation – by Todd C. Frankel (Toronto Star/Washington Post – February 25, 2016)

Tech giants, jewellers believe their continued efforts to make “conflict-free” products will be undermined without the law. Apple doesn’t want to see it scrapped. Neither does Intel or Tiffany & Co.

But the U.S. conflict-minerals law — which requires American public companies to avoid using minerals that fund war and human rights abuses in the Congo region — is widely seen today as facing its most serious threat since its passage in 2010.

The White House is considering a suspension of the law, part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s pledge to cut government regulations and a long-held goal of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If that does not happen, congressional Republicans are expected to try defunding it, which they attempted last year. At the same time, federal regulators recently announced that they plan to “reconsider” the law’s scope. The acting head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency that oversees the regulation, called it “a misguided rule.”

Read more

Uganda gold refinery raises alarm over conflict minerals (Daily Mail – February 22, 2017)

AFP – The inauguration of Uganda’s first gold refinery sparked concern Wednesday over the possibility of dirty minerals from regional conflict zones making their way into the country.

Transparency International’s Peter Wandera told AFP the country’s failure to regulate the mineral sector meant there were “high chances” the refinery could contribute to conflicts, such as that in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where rebels are propped up by illegal mining.

“Uganda has continuously failed to implement the necessary components … to reduce the trade in conflict minerals from the DRC,” he said.

Read more

Rwanda: Is Trump’s Plan to Repeal Conflict Minerals Rule a Gift for Rwanda? – by Ivan R. Mugisha (All – February 21, 2017)

Rwanda is counting on US President Donald Trump coming good on his intention to suspend a law that bars companies from handling conflict minerals to save the country more than $4 million spent annually on compliance.

President Trump had throughout his campaign threatened to do away with the law, known as the Dodd Frank Act, which he argued restricted the growth of manufacturing in the US. The Dodd Frank Act was signed into law by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2010. The legislation was intended to safeguard stability in mineral-rich conflict- prone countries like those in the Great Lakes region, by ensuring that natural resources were not used to fund conflicts.

Last week, a leaked memorandum from the White House showed that President Trump had drafted an executive order suspending the Dodd Frank Act for two years.

Read more

African states wary of potential repeal of ‘conflict minerals’ rule – by Aaron Ross and Ed Cropley (Reuters U.S. – February 15, 2017)

A possible plan by U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend a rule on “conflict minerals” could help fund armed groups and contribute to a surge in unrest in central Africa, regional states said on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters last week that Trump planned to issue a directive targeting a Dodd-Frank rule that requires companies to disclose whether their products contain minerals from war-torn parts of Africa, including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A leaked draft seen by Reuters calls for the rule to be suspended for two years. Competition for Congo’s vast mineral resources has fueled two decades of conflict in its eastern provinces, including a 1998-2003 regional war that killed millions, most from hunger and disease.

Read more

Trump may suspend rules on African ‘conflict minerals,’ say human rights advocates – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – February 13, 2017)

JOHANNESBURG — Congolese warlords and unethical U.S. corporations will be the big winners if U.S. President Donald Trump goes ahead with a reported plan to suspend the restrictions on “conflict minerals” from Central African war zones, human-rights groups say.

The latest Trump plan would jeopardize many years of effort to identify minerals from conflict zones so that consumers aren’t inadvertently financing war and rape when they buy cellphones, laptops, jewellery and other products, the groups say.

Canadian researchers have been among the leaders in developing a certification system to ensure that minerals in consumer products are not supplied from mines controlled by armed militias in war-torn countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Read more

Tech companies pledge to keep kids out of the cobalt mines that power your smartphone – by Peter Whoriskey and Todd C. FRankel (Toronto Star – December 22, 2016)

WASHINGTON POST – Separate groups of the world’s leading technology companies are launching two initiatives to curb “the worst forms of child labour” and other abusive practices in the supply chain for cobalt, a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, laptops and electric cars.

About 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt originates in the Congo, where hand-dug mines rife with dangers attract legions of poorly-equipped, “artisanal” miners who work for as little as $2 a day

Apple, HP, Samsung SDI, and Sony have joined an effort, known as the Responsible Cobalt Initiative. It is being led by a Chinese business group, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Metals, Minerals & Chemicals, and supported by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to the group.

Read more

In Mineral-Rich DRC, Widespread Poverty Is Driving Children to Work in, Near Mines – by Noella Nyirabihogo (Mexico Star – November 8, 2016)

Global Press Journal – Despite the immense mineral wealth in DRC, people here live in endemic poverty. In Rubaya, a powerful evidence of that poverty is the large number of young children who have dropped out of school or who have fended for themselves from an early age.

A 2009 law prohibits all forms of economic exploitation of any person under 18 years of age, and some of the larger mines have removed children from their sites to comply with that law, even as they declined to confirm there were children working at the sites.

In addition to the DRC’s law, the International Labour Organization states that mining is one of the worst forms of child labor, calling it a “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”

Read more

EU agrees law to curb flow of conflict minerals – by Philip Blenkinsop (Reuters U.S. – November 23, 2016)

The European Union agreed a deal on Tuesday to stem the flow of gold and other metals used to fund armed conflicts or produced in conditions that breach human rights.

EU importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold and their ores will from 2021 have to carry out checks on their suppliers in legislation that will also apply to smelters and refiners.

Human rights campaigners said the agreement was a half-hearted first step, with imports of finished products that may contain the minerals not included and an end result that exempted a large number of companies. Industrial users of the commodities said the deal reached in outline in June strikes the right balance.

Read more

How Dodd-Frank Led to More Mayhem in Africa – by Tate Watkins (Wall Street Journal – November 13, 2016)

Spontaneously combusting smartphones may be in the news, but the danger not being reported is the one caused by the minerals inside these devices. Conflict minerals have fostered violence where they’re mined in central Africa, and the U.S. response has made the situation worse.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the average resident lives on about $400 a year, mining is the most lucrative game around. The value of the Congo’s mineral reserves is estimated at $24 trillion, according to the United Nations Environmental Program, most of them dug by informal miners working with picks and shovels. But in a nation that has been crushed by civil war on and off for two decades, much of the mining sector is now controlled by militias that have committed murder, rape and other atrocities against civilians.

When Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial bill in 2010, it included a provision aimed at curbing the violence caused by these minerals. Companies like Apple and Intel use the metals to make electronic components in devices such as cellphones and laptops.

Read more

[Congo] Gunmen still control metals mined for modern gadgets (Daily Mail/Associated Press – October 25, 2016)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Violent gunmen still menace pick-and-shovel miners in eastern Congo, a new report finds, despite years of efforts to loosen their grip by local reformers, Western activists and companies like Apple and Intel that use minerals from the African region in their products.

Conditions are improving for miners who dig the ore that’s processed into tin, tungsten and tantalum for smartphones and other electronics, though some still face interference from armed groups. But slumping demand and depressed prices for those minerals have driven many workers to dig instead for gold that’s used in electronics, jewelry and other consumer products sold by Western companies.

Armed groups hold sway over mining sites where nearly two-thirds of Congo’s gold miners ply their trade. There, under threat of violence, workers are often forced to pay illegal “taxes” that support corrupt army units, rebel groups or unauthorized militias. Sometimes they’re conscripted into forced labor.

Read more

Al Jazeera doccie on US law’s impact on DRC mining up for Emmy (Biz – September 16, 2016)

An Al Jazeera documentary that tells the tale of how advocacy groups got it wrong by pushing through a law on conflict minerals – which has virtually brought the legitimate trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to its knees – is up for an Emmy Award.

Despite being home to $24trn worth of untapped mineral reserves, the DRC remains one of the least developed countries in the world. Conflicted: The Fight over Congo’s Minerals investigates the impact of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s Section 1502, added in 2010, which requires publicly traded companies to track whether their products contain so-called conflict minerals from the DRC.

As part of Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines series, journalist, Anjali Kamat, travels to the eastern hills of the country, where tantalum, tungsten and tin are mined by hand before making their way into electronic devices across the world.

Read more

Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo: The richest, riskiest tin mine on Earth (The Economist – August 27, 2016)

DEEP in the jungle of North Kivu, a lawless province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new road is being cut through the canopy. As birds chirp, hand saws cut noisily through trees. Men with shovels dig out roots and flatten the ochre-red earth.

A sturdy new log bridge crosses a stream. On it stands Boris Kamstra, a South African in a plaid shirt and bucket hat. “This is great road-building material,” he booms, gesturing at the stones.

Mr Kamstra is the boss of Alphamin Resources, a Canadian-funded company that is trying to build perhaps the most improbable mine in Africa. The site, on a hill called Bisie, is about 60km (37 miles) from the nearest settlement of any size, a town called Walikale.

Read more

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.

Read more

STAND WITH CONGO: The West’s campaign against conflict minerals is doing more harm than good – by Ben Radly (Quartz Africa – April 20, 2016)

In recent years Western advocacy groups have achieved unprecedented success in mobilizing Europeans and North Americans behind a “conflict minerals” campaign to help end the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

They have also attracted strong criticism, both internationally and in the DRC, for the perceived negative impact of their work. Over the past three years I have been working on a documentary, “We Will Win Peace”, which is part of this critique. As one local activist told us during the making of the film, “The advocacy led by these organizations, we [didn’t] understood the goal, as Congolese… If we had been informed before of their intentions, we could have done something.”

Similarly, speaking to a group of small-scale rural cultivators, one said, “We didn’t understand what was happening or why such a decision had been made… No one explained to us what was going on.”

Read more