Conflict minerals have long been an issue in the world, especially in technology. These minerals, such as tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold, are commonly used in many electronic components, computers, and other products that we use everyday.
The mines that contain these minerals are located in high-conflict areas, which can negatively impact the rest of the world as the availability and price of these minerals go up. The U.S. and other nations have implemented due diligence programs in these areas to regulate the minerals, and monitor and alleviate human rights abuses and armed conflict. However, the question remains, are these measures enough?
Research and Reports
UCLA recently conducted a study, Evaluating Due Diligence Programs for Conflict Minerals: A Matched Analysis of 3T Mines in Eastern DRC. The goal of this study was to evaluate current due diligence programs in conflict mineral mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Due diligence provides ongoing monitoring of mineral production and processing to ensure that suppliers respect human rights and do not contribute to conflict.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), due diligence is a process that companies should undertake to ensure that the mineral ores containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold being used “support peace and development, not conflict.”
Due diligence includes “a number of steps to put in place strong systems of control over the supply chain, pass vital information to buyers and to the governments and regional institutions that regulate the mineral trade, assess conflict conditions at mine sites, transportation routes and points where minerals are traded in order to source from areas and suppliers that do not contribute to conflict, and report on due diligence,” states the OECD.
Researchers from UCLA compiled data in 2019 from 104 mine sites, 1,054 households, and 1,000 people living around those mine sites in the South Kivu and Maniema regions in Africa. They found that areas involved with due diligence programs saw less interference by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When compared to areas that did not have any due diligence programs, there were more reports of a military presence or improper taxation by soldiers. In comparison, areas with due diligence programs saw over 58% more tax collection and service provision by government regulators, with 27% less taxation presence from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UCLA study notes.
How Can We Do More?
While there are improvements in these areas with the help of due diligence programs, there is more that we can do to mitigate the negative impact of conflict minerals.
Most international efforts to mitigate the negative impact have been prioritized on keeping the conflict minerals out of global supply chains. By doing so, it will de-escalate hostile situations in the mines and promote human rights. “The aim is to break the link between mining and conflict by identifying and boycotting suppliers who contribute, willingly or unwillingly, to armed groups or human rights abuses,” the UCLA report states.
To ensure a conflict-free supply chain, here are a few steps to check how your goods are being sourced.
1. Do your research – Find out where are these parts manufactured, what is the country of origin, or where are they sourced from?
2. Due diligence – Conduct a due diligence report and see how the local mining villages are being affected. Due diligence programs help ensure that taxes remain fair and that local miners are not overworked.
3. Work with a quality distributor – Look for a distributor that is committed to being open and transparent, especially in terms of the products they purchase and their inspection and verification processes.
It’s critical to select a trusted distributor that is responsive and communicative, and is committed to meeting your specifications. Other key traits to look for in a distributor: one that understands the importance of building and sustaining a conflict-free supply chain, and is committed to safe and socially-responsible initiatives. Taking these steps is just one proactive way to preserve the integrity of your supply chain needs.