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Monday, June 24, 2024
Common Council_12.4.13

UW student Sarah hulbert, with amnesty international, sought city support tuesday to end conflict mineral mining in the congo.

City Council supports UW students’ human rights campaign

A group of five University of Wisconsin-Madison students elicited the support of city officials at a Common Council meeting Tuesday in their effort to advance humanitarian policies regulating the mining of conflict minerals in the Congo.

Conflict minerals include gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum, according to Sarah Hulbert. Hulbert, a UW-Madison student and member of the university chapter of Amnesty International, said decades of violence in the Congo can be linked to the illegal trade of these minerals, which are frequently found in American-produced electronics such as cell phones and laptops.

Hulbert, along with four of her UW-Madison Amnesty International associates, welcomed the Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution symbolically declaring the city conflict-free.

Since completely conflict-free technology does not yet exist, Hulbert said the Council’s action is “not financially or legally binding.” However, she said the resolution strengthens a national effort to put pressure on electronics corporations to require their mineral suppliers implement human rights policies.

“There are mines in the Congo that are not conflict mines and that pay their workers,” UW-Madison student Ellen Sellers added. “More and more mines are converting to that every time we put pressure on them to convert, because if there’s not a market for them, they’ll be forced to pay their workers and that’s our ultimate goal.”

UW-Madison student Brian Hennessy echoed Seller’s sentiment and said certifying Congolese mines is the ideal outcome because demanding the electronics industry go elsewhere to obtain these materials would deprive the Congo of an important source of national income.

Hulbert added “Congo’s mineral wealth should be a source of prosperity and stability for the Congolese people, not a source of exploitation and violence."

Over the past two years, Hulbert, Sellers and Hennessy have campaigned to make UW-Madison a conflict-free campus alongside fellow UW-Madison students Connor Garvey and Annika Heilman. They said the gesture by the city will hopefully encourage university officials to follow suit.

Garvey said Associated Students of Madison approved the resolution last year, but it has to be approved by the chancellor before going into effect.

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