Electronics Companies and Consumers can Help Stop Congolese Bloodshed

Have a cell phone or laptop computer? The conflict in eastern Congo, which has killed five times as many people as the war in Iraq, affects you. Fresh attacks last month caused 100,000 people to lose their homes, the latest in a war in which tens of thousands of women have been raped by violent armed groups.

We just returned from eastern Congo, where the demand for cheaper electronics is a key driver of this war. Our research has revealed that armed groups in eastern Congo earned approximately $185 million last year from trading in four minerals that form critical components in cell phones: the 3Ts of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. The militias get rich and buy weapons by selling these minerals to smelting companies in East Asia, who then sell them to consumer electronics firms such as Apple and Nokia.

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