By Colin Baulke
Bill C-486, known as the Conflict Minerals Act, would require Canadian corporations to practice due diligence in the trade of specific minerals originating from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Although this law would make significant steps in reducing the exploitation of “conflict minerals” originating in the region, it is still important for individuals to self-audit their own purchases. To help you with this, STAND has created a list of five household products you may not have realized used minerals that would be in violation of proposed Bill C-486.
Your canned food
While many of us are aware of the conflict minerals trade as it pertains to diamonds mined across the African continent, many people are not aware the potential harm caused by their monthly grocery bill, specifically from the tin used to for canned goods. Tin is derived from the mineral Cassiterite, which is prominently mined in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Control of cassiterite mines has been a source of violence currently present there. Although many corporations’ supply chains still remain ambiguous about the origins of much of their raw goods for packaging, food conglomerate Delmonte Foods has recently made efforts to effect greater public transparency in their supply chain.
Wolframite is used extensively in the production of electronic filaments, as it is extremely dense metal with high melting temperatures. Wolframite is classified as a conflict mineral due to the unethical mining practices that frequently surround it, especially in the DRC. Wolframite is most prominently used as a conducting filament in laptop and computer processors. If you are concerned about the origins of your technological hardware, the not-for-profit Enough Project has published a list ranking the responses of multiple electronic companies (such as Intel, Acer and HP) to the desire to reduce exploitation of conflict minerals
Your cell phone
Coltan, or Columbine-Titanite, is used to manufacture tantalum capacitors, necessary for the functionality of most modern smartphones. Coltan mining has been used to finance armed conflict, specifically in the Ituri conflict in the DRC. Owing to the difficulty of distinguishing the origins of Coltan, many companies have decided to rely exclusively on sources of Coltan outside of Central Africa. Additionally, corporations such as Apple and Research in Motion (now known as BlackBerry) have both conducted self-audits of their own supply chains.
Your golf clubs
Wolframite is used in the chemical composition of tungsten, which is frequently used in the production of sporting goods, such as golf clubs and composite baseball bats. Although the movement towards conflict free production is less prevalent in the sporting goods industry, retailers such as Canadian Tire and Dick’s Sporting Goods have recently adopted policies towards improved ethical standards.
Although most of us are aware of the concept of “blood diamonds” there is less awareness regarding the potential origins of our gold or mock-gold jewelry. Gold is not in itself a conflict mineral, as it is ethically mined globally. However, gold is a cornerstone of the mining sector of Central Africa and could contribute as much as 75 per cent of armed militias revenue streams in the DRC.
Anyone who feels strongly about a world without conflict minerals is hopeful for the success of Bill C-486 in Canadian Parliament. In the meantime, there is much we all can do as individuals to help eliminate the supply and demand factor for these harmful resources. With a little bit of research and the awareness of what goes into daily consumption, we can all make steps to ending conflict mineral trade and disrupting the revenues of armed conflicts.