The role of mining and conflict minerals in electronics production
Every smartphone contains about 40 different minerals, including tantalum, tungsten, copper, iron, nickel, aluminum, tin, silver, chromium, gold and palladium.
Each performs a different role that is essential to the functionality of the phone. For example, tungsten is used in the vibration mechanism and tantalum is often used to make the capacitors smaller.
All these minerals and metals originally enter the supply chain from the mining sector – a challenging industry in terms of sustainability. From pollution and extremely dangerous working conditions to child labor, a number of mining-related practices desperately require improvement. In recent years, in part due to the Dodd Frank Act in the US, conflict minerals have taken center stage in the quest to improve accountability in the mining sector. Conflict minerals fund rebel groups, contributing to political and economic instability while neglecting workers’ rights, safety and their ability to earn fair wages.
Passed in 2010, the Dodd Frank Act addresses tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (3Ts and G) sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and surrounding high-risk areas. At Fairphone, we want to focus on sourcing conflict-free minerals, which is why we’re going straight to the conflict zone: the DRC. While conflict-free minerals are certainly available from other countries, our goal is to work directly where we can contribute to alternatives to current mining practices, empowering workers and improving the livelihoods of the local population. We want to become a vehicle for change in the regions that need it most.