I’m still in the very early stages of research. Currently conducting research to determine exactly what my research question will be.
The challenge in conducting research related to conflict minerals is that it is a) a fairly new area of research with limited academic sources to go by and b) tracing conflict minerals through a supply chain is difficult if not impossible making it hard to study certain aspects of the minerals trade
My original ambition was to research what impacts conflict-free certification efforts were having on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The original spark that ignited efforts to create a supply-chain free of conflict minerals was to cut funding from armed-rebel groups responsible for violence in the DRC region. Therefore, it made sense to me that research should look into whether or not those efforts were actually having an impact on the DRC.
However, it quickly became apparent that conducting first-hand research on the DRC would be incredibly difficult. First, it was likely that the only information I’d be able to gather would come second-hand from NGOs and UN groups working in the country. While it would be interesting to gather this information, and I often read the reports that come out, it doesn’t serve as good academic research.
Under advisement from my professors I’m now leaning towards looking at indirect impacts of the conflict-free certification programs. For example, what impact does a conflict-free certification program have on the price of minerals? This has led me to looking at papers on other certification programs (food, forestry, fish), and the methodology they used to determine indirect impacts. Can the methodologies in those studies even be applied to conflict-minerals? After all, a minerals supply-chain is much different than a food supply-chain.