Global companies are using 3TG in their products. Yet only a portion of them know where it’s being sourced.

What is 3TG?

If you’re not familiar with the term, 3TG refers to Tungsten, Tantalum, Tin and Gold. 3TGs are derived from the minerals cassiterite, coltan and wolframite. The US government and other regulatory bodies label 3TGs as ‘conflict minerals’. Conflict minerals are sourced from areas where mineral mining funds conflict or human rights abuses are occurring.

Consequently, 3TG minerals are often associated with cobalt, because the four are the primary minerals sourced from conflict areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

3TGs are in everything. Smartphones, vehicles, lighting, the wiring in your house. It’s more difficult to find a technological device that 3TG isn’t a component in. Unsurprisingly, this is a problem, because it is difficult to know whether 3TG is being responsibly mined or not. Conflict mineral reporting is integral to ethical and sustainable sourcing, however many companies struggle to do so.

What’s so bad about 3TG?

3TGs are the primary conflict minerals. However, many companies still don’t know where they are sourcing from. While companies are becoming more informed on the sources of their conflict minerals, 34 percent of companies still cannot identify their supplier. Because of this, 3TG could be unknowingly sourced from groups engaging in physical and sexual abuse against adults and children.

With dedication and the right technology, a company can trace their supply chain from beginning to end. As a result, 3TG sourcing doesn’t need to be harmful.

An abuse of human rights

3TG is mined in part through artisanal mining. Artisanal mining has been on the rise in the DRC in recent years. It is also the primary source of income for a large percentage of the Congolese population. Unfortunately, the artisanal small mines often engage in human rights abuses or fund military conflict.

Gold mining is allegedly the most militarised and widespread. In 2014, four of five artisanal miners in the DRC were mining gold. There are more militarised mining sites for gold in the eastern DRC than there are Tungsten, Tin and Tantalum. In 2015, 80 percent of artisanal miners were working in gold mines.

How can we improve 3TG sourcing?

Some companies are already making movements towards responsible sourcing. This includes operating by conflict minerals guidelines such as the OECD Due Diligence Framework, the Responsible Mining Index and ICMM’s Sustainable Development Framework. 

Blockchain is pioneering the way for responsible supply chain management. Blockchain is a digital, distributed ledger. As a result, it allows companies to record every point of their supply chains in a permanent, tamper-proof way. This means that companies can no longer say that it is ‘too complicated’ to keep track of their vendors. With new technology, it may become ethically, sustainably and economically sound to source 3TG from the DRC.

Click here to find out how Blockhead Technologies is promoting responsible mining.