By now most people are familiar with blood diamonds, but few people realize some of the minerals used in electronic devices and computers may come from regions that are host to bloody conflicts. TIME has published a piece about this controversy, you can read it over here.
The provinces of North and South Kivu in the eastern DRC are filled with mines of cassiterite, wolframite, coltan and gold - minerals needed to manufacture everything from lightbulbs to laptops, from MP3 players to Playstations. Over the past 12 years of armed conflict in the region, control of these valuable natural resources has allegedly become a lucrative way for warring parties to purchase munitions and fund their fighting. The Global Witness report claims to have followed the supply chain of these minerals from warring parties to middlemen to international buyers. (How the world must act on Congo [EM] Now.)
By the time metals reach electronics companies, they may have changed hands as many as seven times. This means that without a clear supply history, when a consumer sets her cell phone to vibrate, a function enabled through the mineral wolframite, it is virtually impossible for her to know whether she is using wolframite mined in the eastern DRC, the site of horrific fighting and killing.