The eastern DRC has valuable industrial minerals such as tantalite, cassiterite and tungsten, all of which are critical components in the electronics industry. Since 1996 this part of the DRC has seen violent conflict that has claimed more than 5 million lives and is considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. This civil war has been variously explained as a manifestation of the resource curse or rebel greed, profiteering from the minerals trade. The demand for these ‘conflict minerals’ remains strong and the minerals trade continues to provide both an incentive and a means for belligerents to maintain their operations.
In the DRC, about 90% of minerals are mined using artisanal methods, and minerals are often traded informally. In this context, applying human rights due diligence through establishing traceability has been promoted as a means to ensure responsible sourcing of raw materials and curb the trade in conflict minerals. Moreover, it has become a legal requirement through the conflict minerals provision of the 2010 US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Given the complex supply chains of these minerals and the weak governance capacity in the DRC, a number of initiatives adopt multistakeholder processes to develop and implement human rights due diligence.
This analysis is based on a review of six such frameworks, and concludes that the narrow focus on traceability is unlikely to prevent minerals from being used to finance belligerents. The paper argues that this limitation largely stems from the reductionist approach of the resource curse theories, which could have an adverse impact on local communities. Instead, including key local stakeholders in developing and implementing human rights due diligence processes could lead to the sustainable management of mineral resources.