Eliminate the Use of ‘Conflict Minerals’ in Canadian Cellphones and Laptops

Artisanal miners in the DRC.

Target: Members of the Parliament of Canada 

Goal: Pass legislation that will force high-tech Canadian companies to report where their materials come from

A recent private member’s bill proposed by Canadian Member of Parliament Paul Dewar aims to put an end to the use of “conflict minerals” by high-tech Canadian companies. Conflict minerals are minerals which are extracted by large multinational companies from regions where armed government and rebel groups profit from the extraction and sale of the minerals. Similar to the popularized trade in blood diamonds, trade in conflict minerals like columbite-tantalite (referred to colloquially as coltan) contributes to exacerbating violence in war-torn regions by directly funding the government and rebel groups. However, if multinational companies did not create the demand for the mineral, or better yet ensured their purchase of minerals came from non-conflict regions, the warring factions could not profiteer on the extraction of the minerals, effectively helping to reduce and end the conflict sooner.

When high-tech multinational companies like Blackberry purchase coltan from suppliers who extract resources from conflict regions, they are in effect making the consumer responsible for the purchase of coltan. As it stands there is not a single cellphone on the market which is verifiably conflict free. The opacity of the resource chain allows companies to purchase parts whose mineral content may be riddled with conflict coltan with relative impunity. In essence, when one purchases a smartphone or a laptop they are helping to fund some of the most horrific acts of violence and human rights abuses on earth.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) northern region of Kivu, government forces have been fighting against rebel group M23. The Kivu region, which is rich with coltan deposits, has become a focal point of the fighting because both government and rebel forces seek to secure the mineral wealth of the area in order to fund their war efforts. In doing so, both sides have been responsible for shocking acts of violence. Recruitment and drugging of children to create child soldiers is not uncommon, forced rape of women and children is rampant, and  brutal executions and mutilations of artisanal miners happens with alarming frequency. However, if both sides were unable to profit on the sale of conflict minerals, there would be a strong deescalating in violence because both sides would be hard pressed to find funding for weapons, drugs, and food which are needed to maintain their armies. That is precisely what Dewar’s bill aims to do.

The proposed private member’s bill aims to increase transparency in the resource chain by forcing companies like Blackberry to report regularly to the Federal Government on their supplies of high-tech minerals like coltan, gold, cassiterite, and wolframite. By forcing this transparency, it would become clear which companies are responsible for helping to fund and fuel violence in war-torn African nations like the DRC. At the very least consumers would be making informed decisions about their purchase of high-tech products. If you could choose to buy a conflict-free phone, wouldn’t you? Help end the funding of violence in central African countries by demanding that the Canadian parliament approve Dewar’s bill and force companies to report where their supplies are coming from.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Members of the Parliament of Canada,

It is time to put an end to the funding of violence in central Africa by Canadian multinational companies. The purchase of materials which contain conflict minerals such as coltan is unethical and directly contributes to the exacerbation and prolonging of violence in countries like the DRC. Corporations like Blackberry are allowed to purchase materials, which may have conflict minerals in them with relative impunity. This ultimately makes the consumer responsible for the purchase of these materials. As consumers we find this situation untenable.

Member of Parliament Paul Dewar has proposed a private member’s bill which is aimed at increasing the transparency of high-tech companies’ resource chain. In essence, companies would be forced to report regularly to the Federal Government on where their supplies of parts which contain potential conflict minerals are coming from. In doing so, companies would be forced into purchasing parts from suppliers who source their minerals in an ethical manner. Please do the right thing by passing this bill and putting an end to conflict minerals in our cellphones and laptops.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Finbarr O’Reilly via The Big Picture

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One Comment

  1. Such minerals also contribute to gorilla extinction.

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