Conflict Minerals Inc.

Conflict Minerals Inc. is the first field-based and thorough critique of the transnational efforts to regulate ‘conflict minerals’ in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a multitude of subsequent and overlapping wars have created a three-decades-long conundrum of violence. The book explains why these regulation efforts went awry, but radically changed local political economies and the contours of conflict. Turning into a dominant paradigm, the notion of ‘conflict minerals’ emerged during the ‘Second Congo War’ from 1998–2003, when dozens of militias and government armies fought each other. Into the war, many belligerents turned to minerals in order to re-finance their war effort. NGO and UN investigations put this into the spotlight, painting an image of the wars in line with dominant conflict studies of the time. The resulting global outcry over the connections between violent exploitation and incommensurable suffering then contributed to a transnational campaign pushing laws and initiatives to fight ‘conflict minerals.’  This project traces the evolution of the ‘conflict minerals’ paradigm, the policy responses it triggered, and their impact on eastern Congo’s mining sector. Hailed by Western activists and policymakers, the impact of ‘conflict-free’ mining projects is ambiguous at best: while the only fully operational mineral traceability programme created monopoly, it has not lessened violence and severely impacted on livelihoods. Known by its acronym iTSCi, this industry-led programme has reconfigured mineral markets in a highly contested conflict zone, fostered unemployment, reduced local income and engendered school dropouts. At the same time, it has helped perpetuating shadow economies and corruption amidst ongoing violence. The lessons that can be drawn from transnational efforts to clean up eastern Congo’s mining sector interrogate the interplay of Western consumer ethics, new technology and global trade with protracted violence and contested political authority at the margins of the post-colonial state in Africa.

  • Contact: Christoph Vogel