Global Witness has issued a report with guidance for gadget makers on how to avoid supporting violence and human rights abuses when sourcing minerals from "conflict sources."
Military forces and counterinsurgency groups control the mineral ore trade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and subject the civilian population there to "massacres, rape, extortion, forced labour and forced recruitment of child soldiers," according to the report. Congo's "blood minerals" make their way into gadgets we use after being laundered in the global supply chain.
The metals are then used in a wide range of products, including consumer electronic goods such as mobile phones and computers. Some of the world's most famous brands are now coming under scrutiny to address their role in this devastating trade.
Nobody forces companies to purchase minerals or metals mined in war zones. It is their choice. Those that source minerals or metals originating from eastern DRC need to show the public that they have procedures in place to prevent direct or indirect involvement with serious human rights abuses and other crimes. This is what is called 'due diligence'.
Despite the mounting pressure on companies that use minerals and metals to carry out due diligence, few are actually doing this. Some companies claim that it is too complicated or too difficult for them to do. Due diligence is a process that all reputable companies understand and employ on a regular basis to address risks ranging from corruption to environmental damage.
Do No Harm: A guide for companies sourcing from the DRC, and download the report in PDF here. (globalwitness.org)
Here's a related Yahoo News item.