Minerals form elements of violence

Conflict minerals used by Western corporations are used to prolong fighting.



Justin Yun, Writer

Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, are the poster child of the global struggle against conflict minerals.


Conflict minerals are natural resources such as diamonds, gold, phosphate, wolframite and other precious minerals used to prolong conflict, mainly in poor, underdeveloped countries. Civil wars and violent conflicts are perpetuated because of these minerals, and unfortunately go under-reported and invisible in Western countries, where most of the demand for these minerals originates.

These substances exist because of profit, and the illegal trade will continue to exist so long as the profit motive dominates business ethics and legal repercussions.


According to Source Intelligence, “In 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act into law. Section 1502 of that act addresses the international trade and use of Conflict Minerals.” The effectiveness of Dodd-Frank comes into question when we realize everyday objects such as smartphones are built using resources extracted from conflict zones in Africa.

Tantalum, cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold are necessary for consumer electronics such as TVs, DVD players and laptops, and are commonly extracted from conflict zones such as Eastern Congo or Rwanda. Extracted by captured villagers turned into slaves, these elements are then transferred to places like China or Southeast Asia, where these precious minerals are eventually used to manufacture smartphones and laptops.


The last colony of Africa, Western Sahara, is a disputed territory that also happens to have the world’s largest reserve of phosphates in the world. Phosphate is used for many industrial and agricultural purposes, including being one of the main ingredients in fertilizer. Without phosphate, modern civilization would not be possible because the food we eat originates from crops grown in phosphate-rich fertilizer.

A whole group of people, the Sahrawi people, are fighting a 40-year struggle in the hopes of creating their own nation. The fate of the Sahrawi lies in Morocco’s control over Western Sahara’s phosphate reserves, and Morocco has no incentive to give up their controversial claim over Western Sahara’s abundant phosphate mines.

The global struggle against conflict minerals will be decided in the people’s ability to come together and challenge the inhibitors of the global trade of conflict minerals. These inhibitors take the form of corrupt regimes, multinational corporations and special economic interest.


De Beer’s global monopoly on the diamond trade, ExxonMobil’s shady operations in Nigeria, and Morocco’s involvement in the repression of the Sahrawi people will continue until conflict minerals are exposed and businesses become more transparent in their operations.

In an increasingly globalized world, the demand for these resources will only increase as corporations continue to become powerful entities shaping the way we interact with the world. Exposing unethical business strategies, condemning corrupt regimes and boycotting goods made with conflict minerals begins with consumer education. Failure to do so will only result in further bloodshed and exploitation on the part of Western companies.

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