Awareness Alert: Is Your Camera Made of ‘Conflict Minerals’?

Image credit: ENOUGH Project on flickr.

The Enough Project recently published their latest report on the use of so-called ‘conflict minerals’ in the electronics industry, which paints both a promising and sad picture. ‘Conflict minerals’ are minerals sourced in regions of conflict — in this case mainly the Democratic Republic of Congo — and help to fund the local militias and their ongoing wars. Some of these minerals are used in the electronics industry: cassiterite, columbite-tantalite, and wolframite are the source for tin, tantalum, and tungsten. Some electronics companies already have policies that help track the source of these minerals and prevent the use of minerals sourced in regions of conflict. However, much progress in this area is still to be desired.

The Enough Projects’ 2012 report states that Intel, HP, Motorola and rank highest on the list of conflict-mineral-aware electronics companies, while SanDisk, Philips, Sony, Panasonic, RIM, and AMD have “significantly improved their conflict free efforts by tracing back into their supply chains, piloting due diligence, and joining a smelter audit program.” The sad last place on the list is taken by Nintendo, who, according to the Enough Project, show no effort at all to track the sources of the metals they use in producing their electronics. But since this blog is all about photography, what about the manufacturers of photographic equipment? Take a look at the table below, which shows the results of EP’s 2012 report and the progress each company has made since the last report in 2010:

Image credit: ENOUGH Project on flickr.

As you can see, of the companies that make products that are used by photographers, SanDisk ranks the highest, while Panasonic seems to be on a good way. Samsung has made some slight progress since 2012, but sadly the two major players in the camera business — Canon and Nikon — rank very low in this report and show only very little effort in sourcing conflict-free minerals. So, what can we as customers do to help improve the situation?

For one, we can buy only from those manufacturers that show awareness of the problem. Which could be difficult if you’re using Canon and Nikon gear. So if the company whose products you use ranks low on the Enough Project’s list, you could adress them directly and express your concern about this topic. After all, it’s been to a large part the action of customers that has helped push the awareness about conflict minerals. From the Enough Project’s press release:

We are witnessing a mass consumer movement for the creation of a clean minerals sector in Congo. Not surprisingly, college students have emerged as the leading activists on this issue. Students from more than 100 college campuses across the U.S. and U.K. are advocating for their university’s purchasing and investment policies to reflect company action on conflict minerals[.]

What else can we do? The Wikipedia article on conflict minerals features a list of organizations like the Enough Project that try to help awareness about the problem and push manufacturers as well as suppliers towards acting responsibly in regard to conflict minerals. This is an issue rarely discussed among photographers, but one that we believe must be made aware.

Via Imaging Resource.

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