We’d come to Congo to try to find out more about the developed world’s thirst for coltan, cassiterite, and the other colorfully named minerals that make the electronics industry go round. These are part of a group of natural resources that have been dubbed “conflict minerals” because of the alphabet soup of armed groups (FARDC, CNDP, FDLR, PARECO, etc.) who have found them a very portable and highly profitable way to fund their activities—which mostly consist of killing people. Since 1996, these guerrilla insurgencies have led to the deaths of more than 5 million people, and in one particularly horrific year—2006—the rape of approximately 400,000 women.
A provision in the recently enacted Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, requires American companies to disclose their use of “conflict minerals,” which is basically like asking them if they still beat their wives. In anticipation of the new rules, big corporations have simply avoided purchasing minerals from Congo altogether. Congolese sales of tin ore—used to solder circuit boards together—fell more than 90 percent in May alone.THE HEART OF BLEAKNESS - Sifting Through the Wreckage of Congos Conflict Economy