The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that every year 50 million tons of e-waste are generated globally. To put this into perspective: if the electronic items were loaded into containers on a train, the train would stretch once around the earth.
The town which had produced 800 tons of gold ever since John Taylor and Company, which had bought the licence to mine there in 1880, looks desolate now. The 12,500-acre expanse of the gold fields is strewn with more than 35 million tons of mill tailings (dumps of mining waste) which contain residual gold left over from the earlier extraction.
I am a mining specialist, not a conflict specialist. But on my recent trip to Sierra Leone, I was struck by the ever-present need to look at extractive industries through the lens of conflict prevention. The devastating 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, in large part fueled by local alluvial diamond mining, is impossible to separate from future mining development. With over 50,000 deaths due to the civil war, we cannot ignore the link between conflict and mining.
Section 1502 requires persons to disclose annually whether any Conflict Minerals that are necessary to the functionality or production of a product of the person, as defined in the provision, originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country and, if so, to provide a report describing, among other matters, the measures taken to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of those minerals, which must include an independent private sector audit of the report that is certified by the person filing the report
With such an abundance of mineral resources here in the United States, why are manufacturers being kept from utilizing more domestic minerals and metals? The answer is the duplicative permitting process for new minerals mines. This process, outdated and entangled in a bureaucratic red tape, continuously stalls projects with unnecessary delays, ultimately keeping valuable raw materials locked underground and jobs overseas. As it stands, it can take nearly a decade for companies to receive approval to mine for minerals in the United States — five times longer than it takes in countries, such as Canada and Australia, with similarly strict environmental regulations.