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The Daily Tar Heel

Clubs seek to reduce use of conflict minerals

Most UNC students have cell phones and tablets, but very few realize those devices could contain minerals that are being used to fund violence halfway around the world.

Student Congress is in the process of considering a resolution to reduce UNC’s reliance on tin, tungsten and tantalum — minerals that often originate in the Democratic Republic of the Congoand are in many electronics.

The minerals are often mined by armed groups that threaten the safety of Congolese citizens and sold to foreign countries.

The Conflict-Free Campus Initiative (CFCI), along with the Campus Y and Yole!Africa U.S., has drafted a resolution to alter UNC’s procurement policies to favor the use of conflict-free minerals. The resolution was presented to the Oversight and Advocacy Committee (OAC) of Student Congress Tuesday, which unanimously voted to report the resolution favorably.

Yole!Africa U.S. is an organization focused on facilitating cultural exchange between the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Zach Ferguson, a UNC law student and one of the co-chairs of the CFCI, compared the mining of conflict minerals to the illegal blood diamond trade that has received attention in recent years. He said he does not think a resolution like this has ever been passed at UNC because students are unaware of the problem.

“I think it’s kind of demonstrative that a lot of students aren’t aware of this issue. It’s not really talked about on campus very much that we have conflict minerals in our tablets and our phones,” he said.

Ferguson said the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often identified as one of the poorest countries in the world, but that it also has some of the richest minerals for the production of modern technology.

Following the recommendation by the OAC, this initiative will be brought before the entire congress on Jan. 21. The committee also plans to introduce a similar resolution to the UNC-system Association of Student Governments, which meets at the end of the month.

Members of CFCI hope that following the passage of their resolution, they will be able to work with state legislators to allow UNC to change its policy in a way that supports conflict-free preferences.

UNC Junior Danielle Allyn, who is on the executive board of the Campus Y and is a co-chair of the CFCI, agrees that lack of awareness is a key problem and advocates educating students on the issue.

“This is one of the conflicts with the highest death toll since World War II, with massive human rights abuses, and yet there is very little international attention paid to it,” Allyn said.

“I think it’s something that people should be aware of because you can’t take action on something or even care about something if you don’t know about it.”

Sophomore Lauren Gil, who is co-president of Yole!Africa U.S. at UNC, believes the initiative is essential in educating students on the impact they can have.

“This is about students realizing that even though there is violence and conflict happening miles away, there is so much you can do, and every little thing makes a difference,” Gil said.

“If we as a generation show companies that we care about this issue, then it will be something that is embedded in their minds. There is a long-term and future impact that I think a lot of students would be invested in if they were educated about it.”

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