Raw materials such as tantalum, gold and tungsten form the basis of industrial production, with some being used for electronic devices. The majority of those raw materials are mined in the Global South and processed in the Global North. Revenues from mining raw materials are a key economic resource for many countries in the Global South, but the mining of raw materials also has negative impacts on human rights and the environment.
In some countries, armed conflicts are financed by the trade in raw materials. In addition, the mining of raw materials often has human rights repercussions. Extra-judicial executions of human rights advocates, large-scale forced displacements of people, child labour, contamination of land and water resources, the violation of labour rights and trade union rights and violence by private security firms against workers and the local population are prevalent.
A number of governmental and corporate initiatives are seeking to lessen such violations of human rights. An example of a private-sector initiative is the Conflict-Free Smelter Programme, through which more than 200 companies have joined forces to identify "conflict-free" smelters. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is an example of a governmental initiative – the law passed in the USA in 2010 requires that all US companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange disclose their supply chains if their products contain "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the scope of a research project, the German Institute for Human Rights is investigating the direct and indirect impacts of the raw materials sector on human rights and is working together with other National Human Rights Institutions to that end. One focal country is Columbia.