Conflict Minerals: Is it Really Possible to Produce Smartphones Ethically?

16/06/2015 14:19

Is using a smartphone made from materials mined in war-torn Africa really better than buying "blood diamonds"? Rebel groups in the DRC and neighboring countries run mines that produce key minerals used in the manufacture of consumer electronics and more mundane products such as zippers. The proceeds fund conflicts that have killed up to 5 million people since 1998. In hopes of stemming the use of such "conflict minerals", the US Congress included a provision in the Dodd-Frank law passed in 2010 requiring U.S. public companies to disclose whether they use minerals from the region in their products or manufacturing, but they cannot disclose what they do not know. Key issues:

- Effectiveness of required disclosure of use of Congo-mined minerals is subject of debate, and has the unintended consequence of putting miners out of business, with the miners or their children then joining militias in order to feed their families.

- Inability of manufacturers & suppliers alike to track origin of minerals makes compliance uncertain at best, impossible at worst.