Conflict Minerals in Cellphones, Computers, and Cars


Artisanal Mines in Southern Congo

A key component in lithium-ion rechargeable batteries for cellphones, computers and batteries in electric cars is a mineral called cobalt.  More than half of the world’s total supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  20% of the mined cobalt comes from artisanal (non mechanized and dug by hand) mines in the southern regions, such as Katanga Province.

Many of these have mines have substandard mining conditions that are extremely dangerous and abusive with toxic environments with no protective equipment.  Children as young as 7 are often found in these mines.  UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 40,000 children working in artisanal mines across southern DRC.

The following companies have been accused in a Amnesty International 2016 report by Amensity International of using conflict cobalt or not able to 100% confirm they aren’t using conflict cobalt:

– Apple
– Samsung

– Sony
– Microsoft
– LG
– Daimler (Mercedes)
– Volkswagen

Large Foreign Cobalt Mines in Southern Congo

Large foreign (Chinese and Dutch) owned mines by countries are not much better to local communities than the small artisanial mines.  These larger mines often remove entire villages without their consent into unlivable areas, lacking clean water, fertile soil and increasing their poverty while these mining companies make huge profits.

Conflict Minerals

In addition to cobalt there are 4 other conflict minerals (called conflict minerals due to their connections with human rights abuses and central African conflicts) mined in Eastern Congo, a region that has experienced decades of horrible conflicts, mafia like militias, poverty, rape and child soldiers.

The four conflict minerals fueling these conflicts are

  • Gold
  • Tin
  • Tantalum
  • Tungsten

According to the Enough Project,

“Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by trading conflict minerals. These minerals can be found in many of the products we use every day, such as cell phones and laptops. Government troops and armed groups in Congo fight to control mines and smuggling routes, murdering and raping civilians to fracture the structure of society.

Locals in mining communities are often forced to take part in the illicit mining economy. Money earned from the sale of conflict minerals is used for personal profit and to further violent causes.

Minerals are smuggled out of Congo through neighboring countries and then shipped to smelters around the world for refinement. Once minerals are processed in this way, it’s difficult to trace their origin. Conflict minerals easily make their way to the United States and all over the world in consumer products.”

Learn More

Your Smartphone Is Probably Powered by Child Labor at Mines in Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo: “This is what we die for”: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt

Apple, Sony, Samsung linked to child labour claims in cobalt mines

Cobalt: The New Conflict Mineral?

Black Main Street: The People Who Die to Make Your Cell Phone


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