Nov 15 9:00 PM

Conflicted: The Fight Over Congo's Minerals

Did a law lobbied for by Western consumers and advocacy groups bring peace to miners in eastern Congo—or did it instead cause more problems for people in the region?


'Conflicted: The Fight Over Congo's Minerals'

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the least developed countries in the world. Yet it’s also home to $24 trillion worth of untapped mineral reserves. In the eastern hills of the country, the “3 Ts”—tantalum, tungsten and tin—are mined by hand, eventually making their way into electronic devices across the world. 

For a decade, advocacy groups in the U.S. and Europe pressured technology companies to pay attention to violence linked to so-called “conflict minerals” in their products. They successfully lobbied to include a resolution called Section 1502 in 2010’s Dodd-Frank Act, requiring all publicly traded companies to track whether they are receiving minerals from Congo. 

Soon after the law was passed, the mineral trade in eastern Congo came to a standstill. Buyers took their business elsewhere. Fault Lines travels to the region to hear from miners who have been struggling to make ends meet and questions advocacy groups that say Dodd-Frank 1502 has been a success. With evidence of fraud and smuggling, how can some of the biggest brands in the tech industry take credit for reducing violence and claim to be sourcing “conflict-free?”

Executive Producer: Mathieu Skene, Senior Producer: Hanaan Sarhan, Correspondent: Anjali Kamat @anjucomet, Producer: Cassandra Herrman @CassandraH, Director of Photography: Víctor Tadashi Suárez @tadashi_lives, Editor: Warwick Meade @warwickmeade, Fixer: Caleb Kabanda, Additional Photography: Saeed Taji Farouky @saeedtaji, Production Manager: Dana Merwin @dana_merwin, Digital Producer: Nikhil Swaminathan @sw4mi, Production Assistance: Zahra Rasool @RXahra, Nesa Azimi @nesaazimi

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