Iman, Conflict Minerals and You

At the 2011 BET Honors, Iman discusses conflict minerals. Learn how you can take a stand.

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FAQ - A lot of our most popular electronics—cellphones, laptops, and digital cameras—are made from minerals that have contributed to the deaths of millions in Central Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo. Learn more about "conflict minerals," find out what's behind the fighting, and see how you can take a stand against the trade of the minerals in the following slides. (Men sift through dirt and mud while looking for gold in Mongbwalu, Congo. Photo source: Getty Images)

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The Three Ts - The illicit sale of four popular minerals (gold and the three Ts: tin, tantalum and tungsten) has funded the deadly conflict in Congo for 15 years. For this reason, minerals extracted from this region are referred to as “conflict minerals.” Since the start of the war, fighting has killed more than 5 million people, making it one of the worst wars the world has ever seen. Mass rapes of hundreds of thousands of women have been used to intimidate citizens. (A gold buyer displays a recent purchase in Mongbwalu, Congo. Photo source: Getty Images)

Dialed In - Thirty-three percent of all African-Americans own a smartphone, and Blacks use more than twice the amount of mobile-phone voice minutes compared to whites (1,298 minutes a month compared to 606 minutes, respectively). (Source: Nielsen 2011 State of the African-American Consumer) (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Products - Many of the electronics we use each day—such as cellphones, computers, medical equipment, and portable music players—may contain conflict minerals. Due to a lack of transparency in the industry and the fact that minerals from Congo are smuggled into other nations, it’s hard for the consumer to be absolutely sure that the products they buy don’t contain any of the minerals used to support the violence in Congo. (Photo source: Getty Images)

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History Behind the Fighting - Iman has been an outspoken critic of conflict minerals. The demand for the minerals has bred “greed, anarchy, and unspeakable violence against women,” says Iman in her BET Honors acceptance speech. \r\rCongo’s army has been embroiled in a fight for power with the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda for years. Money made from the lucrative $180 million-plus mineral industry is behind the violence, and profits are used to buy large numbers of weapons for armed groups to further finance the reign of terror over the people of the region. (Photo source: Getty Images)

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A Corporate Dilemma - Apple CEO Steve Jobs has acknowledged the difficulty of weeding out conflict minerals from Apple products. In an email to a potential customer, he said “We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few [sic] materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it's a very difficult problem.” (Photo source: Getty Images)

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Government Response - A law requires American companies to submit a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing whether their products contains gold, tin, tungsten, or tantalum from Congo or adjacent countries. They will also have to describe what measures they are taking to trace the minerals' origin. If companies don’t take action there won’t be a penalty, but the disclosures must be posted on the company’s websites. (Photo source: Getty Images)

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What You Can Do - Unfortunately it is not yet possible to buy guaranteed conflict-free products. But as one of the world’s main consumers of electronics, we can take a stand. Under threat of a boycott, we can urge manufacturers to stop using conflict minerals in their products. We can also contact our government officials to make sure they continue to have strong regulation of minerals coming from the war-torn region. (Photo source: Getty Images)