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Cell Phones, Conflict Minerals And Canada: The Jane Goodall Institute Campaigns For Change
November 12, 2013
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Dr. Jane Goodall and her Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) are known for their work protecting chimpanzees around the world. But the Institute's latest effort is also about protecting human beings — specifically those living in Congo.

The Institute has launched a campaign called "One Click Can Bring Peace to Africa", and is urging people to sign a Petition to End Conflict in Congo. The campaign asks Canadian Members of Parliament to pass an NDP private member's bill called the Conflict Minerals Act (Bill C-486), which would require Canadian companies using minerals from Congo to indicate whether armed groups there have profited from the mining and processing of those minerals.

Congo has been racked by civil war and conflict for almost 20 years, and about five million people have died as a result of the violence. One reason for the conflict is the presence of valuable minerals, including coltan, a substance used in cell phones and other electronics. The BBC reports that "the natural riches have attracted rapacious adventurers, unscrupulous corporations, vicious warlords and corrupt governments, and divided the population between competing ethnic groups."

Coltan is sometimes referred to as a "conflict mineral" because it is mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, and because sales of coltan help finance continued fighting in Congo. On the petition website, the JGI argues that signing Bill C-486 into law will help keep conflict minerals out of the Canadian market, and in the process help end the "incredible suffering and violence" and "stop the war by stopping conflict minerals from entering our markets."

It's not just humans who are affected by conditions in Congo. Both mining operations and the fallout from the conflict can damage habitats where animals live. Illegal mining often takes place inside wildlife reserves, and a 2011 UNEP study warned of "alarming trends including increased deforestation, species depletion, heavy metal pollution and land degradation from mining."

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