An amendment included in the financial overhaul bill completed on Friday aims to force high-tech manufacturers to reconsider the use of minerals that could be fueling violence in Congo.
The language mirrors a bill introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) requiring companies to make annual Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures about what materials they use and the origin of certain minerals.
Activists who lobbied for the amendment charge that warlords make millions off American technology companies by controlling mines that contain minerals used in cell phones, computers, DVD players, and other consumer electronics products.
The Enough Project, an anti-genocide group, directly links Congo violence to the largest 21 technology companies. It hailed the progress of the financial reform bill on Friday.
"A year ago most members of Congress hadn't even heard of conflict minerals," said founder Jon Prendergast. "In the middle of a turbulent legislative calendar, activists all over the country were heard loudly and clearly: we demand conflict-free products and we expect our legislators to do all they can to ensure that."
Activists against conflict minerals draw a clear line between consumer products and Congo violence. A handful protested the opening of the Apple store in Georgetown this month.
The violence "is a result of this: your cell phone," Prendergast says in a YouTube video.
He homes in on four minerals: tantalum, which stores electricity in cell phones, tungsten, which makes it vibrate, tin, which is used in circuit boards, and gold, which is used to coat wiring, he says.
The group does not hesitate to call out offending companies by name. It recently unveiled an ad spoofing the "I'm a Mac; I'm a PC" campaign.
"Guess we have have something in common after all," says the actor playing Mac when he learns that both companies use conflict materials.
The ad calls on technology companies to "clean up their supply chains" and urges consumers to send the same message by petitioning the companies by email.