Metals in mobile phones help finance Congo atrocities

As the Mobile World Congress opens in Barcelona on 16 February, Global Witness is calling on mobile phone manufacturers to audit their supply chains in order to exclude minerals financing the armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Metals in mobile phones help finance Congo atrocities

 

Metals in mobile phones help finance Congo atrocities. Annual industry meeting highlights need for due diligence on supplies.

As the Mobile World Congress opens in Barcelona on 16 February, Global Witness is calling on mobile phone manufacturers to audit their supply chains in order to exclude minerals financing the armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

There is a direct causal link between the metals trade in eastern DRC and atrocities perpetrated by armed groups against Congolese civilians. Recent work by Global Witness and the UN Group of Experts revealed that all of the main armed groups involved in the current fighting in eastern DRC finance themselves through the trade in high-value minerals. These minerals are processed into metals such as tin and tantalum, which are used in the manufacture of mobile phones.

“The surging global demand for mobile phones has been helping to bankroll armed groups in Eastern Congo’s conflict,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness. “Mobile phone manufacturers need to undertake checks all the way up their supply chains to make sure they are not buying from mines controlled by militias and military units.”

The UN Group of Experts’ latest report, published in December 2008, asserts that the world’s fifth largest tin-processing company, Thailand Smelting and Refining Co (Thaisarco), buys ore from an exporter who is supplied by mines controlled by the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR). The FDLR is a Hutu militia whose members are alleged to include perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group continues to commit grave human rights abuses against Congolese civilians. Thaisarco, based in Thailand, is owned by British metals giant Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC) Group.

Global Witness recently wrote to major mobile phone manufacturers as well as mineral and metal traders to ask them what due diligence measures they are taking to ensure that their sourcing practices are not fuelling the conflict. While some firms have pledged to tighten their supply chain control, the mobile phone industry as a whole lacks sufficient measures to guarantee that phones and other electronics are free of conflict minerals.

“Mobile phone users do not want to buy products that are associated with crimes such as murder, torture and rape,” said Mike Davis of Global Witness. “If mobile phone manufacturers want to avoid the risk of a consumer backlash, they must act now. The Mobile World Congress is a prime opportunity for an industry-wide commitment to comprehensive due diligence measures.”