When considering sourcing minerals, thoughts often turn to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in central Africa. Blighted by civil war, armed groups have taken control of mines producing tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – often referred to as ’conflict minerals’ – and reap the financial rewards of these materials being used in goods ranging from jewellery to modern electronics.
The groups that control these mines have been widely accused of abusing workers, which is putting pressure on global businesses to get a greater understanding of their supply chains and end these abuses.
Although DRC is a major source of such minerals, it is not the only location that procurement should focus on. Gold provides an example of why.
Corrupt and dangerous mining processes are plaguing communities in South America. Countries such Colombia and Peru are plagued by unregulated mines, which disregard health and safety standards.
These facilities also rely on mercury amalgamation to extract gold. This process exposes miners to toxic mercury, while it also contaminates land and water.
In November 2016, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency because of the amount of mercury apparent in water connected to or uphill of the Madre de Dios in the east of the country.
Some 88% of the 57 metric tonnes of gold mined each year in Colombia is produced illegally, according to the president of the Colombian Mining Association, Santiago Ángel Urdinola. Gold mining is the principal source of income for these communities and if businesses simply cut ties it will cause more harm than good. Businesses must be prepared to look deep into their supply chains and provide training and advice to stamp out the use of mercury amalgamation.
It will always fall on procurement to ensure that minerals are sourced responsibly. The pressure to achieve that will only increase as consumers become more aware and interested in where the goods they purchase come from. Fail to get that right and a business’s reputation will be left in tatters, which will have far wider financial consequences than doing more now.
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.