IT Industry Leaders Aim to End Use of 'Blood Tin'

IT Industry Leaders Aim to End Use of 'Blood Tin'

A coalition of mining and IT firms, including some of the world's largest producers of tin and a host of household names such as Apple, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Sony, have today announced the launch of a major new project designed to stop so-called "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being used to make computer components.

The IT industry has in the past been accused of fuelling the trade in "blood tin" by purchasing tin and other minerals such as tantalum, tungsten and gold from mines in Eastern DRC which are controlled by illegal militia who are accused of fuelling the country's long-running civil war.

{related_content}A report last year from human rights and environmental lobby group Global Witness found that the IT and mobile phone industry, which ultimately uses many of the minerals mined in the area, were indirectly funding militia that are guilty of some of the "worst kinds of humanitarian atrocities."

Now tin industry trade association ITRI is seeking to tackle the problem with the launch of a pilot scheme designed to track minerals and provide provenance information from individual mine sites in eastern DRC.

The project has secured funding from a wide range of sources, including a levy on the association's smelter members and a coalition of downstream purchasers of the affected minerals, including a host of IT and mobile phone firms.

The project, which follows a due diligence study designed to assess whether such a tracking system is possible, will begin by selecting a number of pilot mine sites in the relevant cassiterite and columbo-tantalite exploitation areas in North and South Kivu.

The initial aim will be to track the provenance of mineral shipments and try to ensure that metals are not being sourced from mines controlled by militias. The ITRI said that after six months it would aim to expand the pilot scheme across four provinces of the DRC.

Should the initial pilot prove successful, a new phase of the project is expected to be launched later this year or in early 2011, which will require mines to comply with a "more detailed set of social and environmental performance standards and ratings."