The belief that the armed conflicts in the mineral-rich eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been perpetuated by the income from the illicit trade in these minerals has brought together a broad coalition of interests linked by a common objective: to regulate 'conflict minerals'.
This has generated a wave of initiatives, strategies and regulations involving the trade in minerals; many of these seek to prevent armed conflict while others are aimed more broadly at contributing to the maintenance of peace and security through greater transparency and good governance measures.
These ambitious programmes of action, whether at international, regional or domestic levels, have raised difficult questions including how to distinguish between legal and illegal trade within an unregulated economy compounded by the existence of armed conflict.
A fully regulated mining sector has the potential to offer huge rewards for local communities and the state, but whether the regulation of conflict minerals can achieve its avowed aim as a conflict-prevention strategy remains to be seen.
There is an overriding need for governments to ensure that any measures adopted, whether legally binding or not, take into account any potential unintended consequences that are likely to have an adverse impact on the very communities that the measures are intended to protect.