Conflict with Getting Minerals from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is Important to China's Economy
Globalization is a significant part of the business world. It offers many opportunities for change and growth, and helps people connect to one another even if they are across the world from each other. Being able to buy something from the next town over or the other side of the world can make a person very happy, and can also help companies expand and gain new clients. However, what the person is buying and where the items are coming from is very important. Some globalization has resulted in a desire for items that are coming from countries where the people are not being treated well. When that happens, it can be a serious violation of human rights and can cause a significant number of problems in the country from which the items are being exported. Such is the case with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where there is a conflict over minerals (Magistad, 2011).
These "conflict minerals" such as gold, wolframite, cassiterite, and coltan are all widely found in the DRC, and all very important minerals when it comes to what they can offer to the economy (Nest, 2011, 12). However, they are being mined in poor and dangerous conditions as those conditions relate to the DRC and its people (Magistad, 2011). Human rights abuses and armed conflict are seen, mostly in the furthest Eastern provinces of the DRC (Magistad, 2011). There are many groups in the country causing difficulty regarding these minerals, and focusing on how to take what they want without pay or compensation. China's desire to mine these minerals is separate from the abuses taking place from some of these groups, but still a part of the issue that will be addressed here. The United States also plays a role in the issue, as it has its own laws and regulations about mining from countries like the DRC.
With any paper or study, it is important to have a research question in mind. Not doing so means there is nothing to study, or that the paper is not focused on a specific issue. That can leave the paper without a clear focus or unable to address a specific issue directly, leaving little for the reader. The research question asked here is:
How is the conflict with getting minerals from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) important to China's economy?
This is a serious question that does not have any easy answers. It seems as though the answer has to be focused only on China and its specific economic needs, but there are other players in the game when it comes to getting minerals and natural resources from the DRC (Magistad, 2011). It is not only whether China can get these minerals, but whether they can be collected by other countries, as well, and the ways in which the minerals are collected. Studies and research has shown that both peace and conflict can come out of globalization, but currently conflict seems to be the most noticed or significant. This has been addressed by individuals such as Thomas Barnett, who have discussed how globalization can cause stress at first, and how that stress can move into something much more peaceful over time.
Whether this will happen with the DRC and what role China may play in that remains to be seen, as does how that will affect the rest of the world's economy and other countries that also desire DRC minerals. That movement will be explored here in an effort to fully answer the research question and understand globalization more clearly. Without a significant understanding of why there is conflict in the DRC over minerals, it can be difficult to explain the issue and address it fully. However, the conflict is much more global in nature, since there are other countries involved.
The Conflict Minerals
The conflict minerals mentioned in the introduction -- coltan, wolframite, gold, and cassiterite -- are all relatively abundant in the DRC (Magistad, 2011). In order to better understand the issue, it is important to know what these minerals are and what they are used for once they are mined and processed. This can facilitate understanding about conflict in the region and the value and importance of the minerals themselves. There are currently only four minerals that fall under the category of conflict minerals, although more could be added at a later date if they are found to be valuable.
Wolframite -- This mineral provides tungsten (Eichstaedt, 2011, 13). It is very important to have adequate supplies, as it is an extremely dense metal and used in a lot of applications. The most common are the heads of golf clubs, the tips of darts, and weights used for fishing (Eichstaedt, 2011; 13). The mineral is also hard, and is resistant to wear. That makes it good for milling, drill bits, and tools used for metalworking (Eichstaedt, 2011, 13). "Green" ammunition is also being made with tungsten now, as it can be a substitute for lead (Eichstaedt, 2011, 14). There are other applications for tungsten, including the function that makes cell phones vibrate and other types of electronic devices (Eichstaedt, 2011, 14). Because tungsten is used in so many different things, the wolframite it comes from is valuable. That is why there is conflict over mining it in the DRC.
Gold -- Used in electronics, dental work, and jewelry, gold commands a high price and has many applications (Eichstaedt, 2011, 14). There are also chemical compounds created to make semiconductors where gold is used (Eichstaedt, 2011, 15). It is no secret that gold has a lot of value, but the market for it can be volatile, as well. People who buy gold often pay a significant amount of money per ounce, and extracting it from the ground can be difficult, dangerous work. That is a large part of why it is so significant to control a place where a lot of gold is found.
Cassiterite -- Without this mineral there would be no tin, as it is the main ore needed to produce it. Tin cans are made from it, and electronic equipment requires it for the solder used on the circuit boards (Eichstaedt, 2011, 15). There are many others areas where tin is used, such as fungicides, biocides, and PVC pipe, as well as the manufacturing of high performance paint (Eichstaedt, 2011, 15). Because of its many uses, tin has a great deal of value for the consumer and for companies that need it for the items they are making. In order to have tin available for all of these applications, the right amount of cassiterite has to be mined and processed from regions like the DRC.
Coltan -- This is the African, colloquial term for columbite-tantalite. The element tantalum is extracted from this ore. Primarily, tantalum is used to make capacitors for high performance applications, high reliability, and a small format (Eichstaedt, 2011, 16). This can range across everything from airbags, ignition systems, and GPS devices to pacemakers and hearing aids (Eichstaedt, 2011, 16). Laptop computers, mobile phones, anti-lock braking systems, video and digital cameras, and video game consoles also use tantalum (Eichstaedt, 2011, 16). The material is very resistant to wear and has a lot of hardness, so it can be used for a wide variety of things. Milling and other tools, drill bits, and turbine blades for jet engines are other uses for tantalum (Eichstaedt, 2011, 16).
Conflict minerals are strongly related to blood diamonds, which are diamonds that are mined in a war zone (Ma, 2013,-page 2). They are used to finance the efforts of an invading army, the activity of a warlord, or an insurgency (Magistad, 2011). Most of these diamonds come from Africa, but they also come out of Russia (Magistad, 2011). The diamonds are mined and then sold or traded for cash, weapons, or anything of value that is desired by the people who have possession of the diamonds. Because of that, these diamonds have high value but are also shunned by many countries and activist groups. Conflict minerals generally fall into the same category.
Supply Chains - Rebel Groups and Armies
There are several groups that are involved when it comes to mining these conflict minerals. These include the Congolese National Army, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Meale, 2009,-page 22). These are not the only groups who are part of the issue, however, or who have been part of the issue in the past. There are foreign groups from Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda who were involved in the Congo Wars and who removed and processed the minerals, as well (Magistad, 2011).
Governments from those countries still smuggle minerals out of the DRC today, and control of the mines that provide the minerals involves much fighting. The Second Congo War has been…