The 21st Century version of “blood diamonds” are in our electronics
Most people are familiar with the illicit trade of “blood diamonds”, but few are aware of the “other” blood trade: illegally sold minerals. These minerals are crucial to the aerospace, electronics, and manufacturing industries, and their illegal sales are used to finance political militias that murder civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Until now, there’s been no way to “fingerprint” these materials to determine their origin. But now scientists may have found a way… using lasers.
Back in 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to prevent companies from inadvertently funding wars through the purchase of what are called “conflict minerals.” The Act requires firms to verify that their products contain no cassiterite, columbite-tantalite, wolframite, or gold obtained from the DRC and its neighbors. This has proven easier said than done, because legitimate mining operations are often located near militia-controlled ones.