Although we are university students based along the remote eastern coast of Scotland, we realise that the same electronics we use to study for our exams connect us to one of the deadliest conflicts in the world. We have been told that European Parliament will not even think about moving on conflict mineral legislation until elections in 2014. This is unacceptable. We are now calling for European Parliament to dissolve this connection brought about by irresponsible and illegal sourcing practices.
We were pretty terrified to learn our electronics have a connection to the largest and bloodiest conflict since World War II that is currently raging in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. This conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 6 million people and the displacement of thousands. The mining of tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold, and other valuable minerals are providing tens of millions of pounds/euros to the dozens of armed groups operating in the eastern DRC. These ‘conflict minerals’ then end up in our electronic devices. Electronics companies have known about this connection for over a decade and, meanwhile, many outside mining companies operate in the DRC without ensuring the safety and welfare of their employees and fail to follow Congolese and international extractive and environmental laws. Countries like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Colombia have seen similar exploitation of their resources and violence as well.
Despite being the Nobel Peace Prize Winner of 2012, the European Union has made slow progress in ensuring that electronics companies operating within its boundaries practice due diligence and transparency with their supply lines. Legislation addressing the conflict mineral trade has been discussed for the passed several years and there is little to show. We think the time for legislation addressing the clear lack of guidelines on sourcing and repercussions for companies lacking ethical sourcing practices is long overdue. It's time for the EU to act now.
Please join us in asking Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, and Karel De Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade, to propose legislation addressing the trade of conflict minerals immediately. Until mining companies and electronics industries begin sourcing their materials ethically according to OECD guidelines, consumers in the EU are complicit in fueling violence not only in the Congo but also in other regions of world that the conflict mineral trade affects as well.
It is time to end the connection between the EU and the bloody reality brought on by the extraction and trade of conflict minerals.