A Union of Congolese Patriots fighter controls workers at the gold mine in Iga Barriere, Ituri region, northeast of Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo/AFP/Eric Feferberg
This region is rich in precious metals used in electronic devices and the exploitation of the minerals has been marked with conflict and illegal trade over the years.
DRC alone supplies almost 70 per cent of the world’s supply of the metal tantalum, which is an ingredient in all mobile phones.
Tantalum is a vital metal in the manufacture of compact and high performance capacitors found in mobile phones, laptops, tablets and gaming consoles.
In the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the mines are under the control of various armed militia groups and the Congolese National Army as well.
Cases of human-rights abuse and conflict in a number of mines led to the precious metals being branded as conflict minerals. Like the “blood diamonds” of Sierra Leone, these “conflict minerals” or “blood phones” are stained with conflict.