These 4 minerals are common materials found in electronics, automobiles, and jewelry. Tin, Tantalum, Tungsten, and Gold are abundant in Africa's Great Lake Region, located by the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One-third of the mines in this region are believe to be run by armed militia groups.
The militia groups in and around the DRC are fighting to gain control of these valuable mines. These are lead by rebel groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), who use the tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold from the mines to fund their wars against the governments of the Congo. Along with the rebel groups, the national armies of the Congo are also looting the mines and smuggling the minerals out of the country to fund their wars against the rebels. This leaves the Congo civilians in the middle of a war for conflict minerals and having their lives destroyed.
As these militias rush to loot these mines, they are forcing the innocent civilians to do the hard labor. Miners are forced to work 24 hour shifts. They are not often payed and only have the chance to earn money if they find tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold. The civilians forced to mine do not have the training necessary to ensure safety in the mines. Mines are constantly collapsing, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Those who are injured are unable to receive proper medical care and typically end up incapacitated or die from injury. If a civilian does not want to work for these militia groups they are either threatened, have their family threatened, or are killed. There is no way for these civilians to live in a world without fear.
In July 2010, the United States Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This bill required all companies that file with the SEC and use conflict minerals in their products must complete a Reasonable Country of Origin Inquiry (RCOI) to determine if any of the minerals are coming from a conflict zone. Companies that state their products, which contain tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold, are conflict free are subject to an Independent Private Sector Audit (IPSA) to confirm the claims. Documenting and providing transparency in a company's supply chain is becoming a costly process.
Many companies have supply chains that are multi-tiered. The parts and components they are buying from suppliers are not coming directly from the smelters that buy and refine tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold. In order to obtain this information, the reporting companies send out surveys to their suppliers who in turn send the survey to their suppliers. This cycle continues until it reaches the top level of the supply chain, the smelter, or a company knows the exact smelters that it is getting its minerals. The industry standard survey form is the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative's (CFSI) Conflict Minerals Reporting Template (CMRT). The accuracy of the data in these surveys is critical for a company to determine if it is buying minerals in a conflict zone. Ensuring all members of a company's supply chains are buying tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold from non-conflict areas will drastically reduce the funding of armed groups. As the money dries up, the rush to loot the resources of the mines will dissipate and the civilians of the Congo will no longer live in fear.