The Times’ recently published Future-proofing Procurement special report is a very interesting read, and as a lover of technology/gadgets the article about tech mineral mining in conflict zones caught my eye.
It focused on the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and how artisanal miners (mainly children) are being exploited and exposed to dangers mining the mineral. A massive 51% of the world’s total supply comes from the DRC and artisanal miners are mainly independent workers, not directly employed by the mines. Many are children who are using their own resources, typically hand tools, in perilous conditions and exposed to dangers both from the mining and the militia.
The article goes into detail about how technology organisations’ supply chains are being more vigilant than others in ensuring their suppliers are ethical. Steps have recently been put in place in Europe with a new regulation requiring technology firms who import minerals to meet the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and in the States, they have section 1502 of the Dodd Frank act which again is to ensure ethical sourcing from the DRC and other war zones.
Unfortunately, not every organisation is expected to trace the origins of the minerals they source and investigations showed that 80% of organisations in the US filing reports were not meeting the minimum requirements of the law! Even worse – there are no repercussions.
Apple, Samsung and Toshiba have reported the steps they have taken to source responsibly and have banned the use of conflict minerals mined in unethical methods. Last year, Apple removed 22 smelters not meeting their standards.
Living in a developed world, far removed from the terror and hardship of conflict zones it’s easy to complain about a low battery on our gadgets. I found this article to be a good reminder of how our products are manufactured and highlights that further actions are required to ensure that we are not unwittingly contributing to trade that is financing violence and intimidation of the defenceless and unfortunate.