Sales of gemstones such as diamonds from mines in Africa have been used to fund groups fighting civil wars in Sierra Leone, the Congo and Angola. In the late 1990s, this trade gave rise to the term conflict diamonds, which was soon joined by the more emotive blood diamonds. Considerable efforts have been made to stop such sales to cut off an important source of funding.
More recently, emphasis has moved to minerals in great demand as sources of the elements needed to make essential components for electronic devices — computers, mobile phones, DVD players. They include cassiterite (an ore of tin), wolframite (of tungsten) and coltan (the short name for the closely related ores columbite and tantalite, important sources respectively of niobium and tantalum). All of these are illicitly mined in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the income from them funds the civil war in that country.
By analogy with the older terms, since about 2008 these ores (with the addition of gold) have begun to be called conflict minerals or blood minerals. Efforts are being made, such as through the Dodd-Frank Act in the US (due to come into effect this year), to force electronics firms to get these key elements only from legitimate sources.
Signs are surfacing that manufacturers are taking steps ahead of the U.S. Frank-Dodd act to ensure so-called blood minerals no longer make it into cellphones and other electronic devices.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 7 Dec. 2010.
Conflict minerals are an increasing cause for concern in eastern Congo, with metals used to make electronics mined in exploitative conditions and the profits used to fund the ongoing war.
PC Pro, Mar. 2011.