In the United States (along with other countries in the Western world), everything’s becoming more efficient in terms of our technology. In this modern age of technology, electronics are a part of our everyday lives. These electronics includes televisions, computers, cell phones, gaming consoles and many other devices as well. We all have many products and often we can not live without them. We use high-tech devices to help us perform duties at home, school, work and to connect with other people. Interestingly enough, even though we live in this modern technological age, many of us do not give a second thought about how our products are made and most importantly, where the resources come from. I mean seriously, how often do you really stop and ask “How and where exactly do we get our resources to make electronic products?” When you see new products and technologies that come to market, these questions do not come to mind. Minerals such as coltan, with highly conductivity and heat resistant properties are often mined for the production of modern day technology.With the majority of the people in developed first world countries not aware of the affects and effects of this high demand of resources to meet production, the coltan conflicts generally go unnoticed.
After researching about my topic, what I’ve discovered was quite shocking. In this blog, I will be addressing how the high demand for high-tech electronics in the West (United States and Europe) fuels ongoing conflicts in the Congo, as well as multinational corporate involvements and human rights violations. The conflict in the Congo is fought over mining areas that contains minerals called Columbite-tantalite, also known as coltan. Coltan is necessary for production of high-tech electronics because it can conduct heat and electricity better than most known minerals. Militant rebel groups control many coltan-rich areas throughout the Congo and often fight each other. As a result, nearly seven million people have lost their lives over minerals.
According to the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, the crisis in the Congo is not improving.
“The world’s most neglected emergency is the ongoing tragedy of the Congo, where six to seven million have died since 1996 as a consequence of invasions and wars sponsored by western powers trying to gain control of the region’s mineral wealth. At stake is control of natural resources that are sought by U.S. corporations—diamonds, tin, copper, gold, and more significantly, coltan and niobium, two minerals necessary for production of cell phones and other high-tech electronics; and cobalt, an element essential to nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense industries.” - U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos (2010)
The armed rebels’ methods of obtaining minerals is to force civilians (mostly young boys and men) into mining the coltan-rich areas. The working conditions are horrible and filthy, many die as a result from lack of training to mine underground, as often mining caves would collapse trapping the forced laborers inside. Although, these accidents do happen armed rebel militia groups still prosper from the illegal mining business. The “conflict minerals” are then sold to electronic corporations or the black market with the profits going only to the rebel groups fueling the arms trade and civil conflicts. Workers on the the other hand are not compensated for their labor and often suffer by the hands of the rebels.
Through my research, I hope that my readers on this blog will be socially aware of the critical situation that occur overseas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We as consumers, of electronics have a moral obligation to subject corporations to improve their procedures when it comes to obtaining resources and minerals. Through this form of media, I hope to spread awareness and to inform my peers and the public about the ongoing conflict and that we as consumers can demand a change to improve the situation and no longer indirectly fund conflicts.
Harris, Deyango and Turner, Daniel. “High Tech Genocide in the Congo.” Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News. RSS, 29 Apr. 2010. Sat. 5 June 2013.<http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/5-high-tech-genocide-in-congo/>.
Essick, Kristi. “Guns, Money and Cell Phones.” Global Issues: Social, Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Affect Us All. RSS, 11 June 2001. Sat. 5 June 2013. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/442/guns-money-and-cell-phones>.
Here are some more videos that’s related to my topic:
Here are the categories in my topic that I will address in future blog posts:
1. High-Tech Electronics and its relations to “Conflict Minerals”
2. Specific militant rebel groups controlling coltan-rich areas in the Congo/human rights violations/UN
3. Multinational corporate involvements/Possible Solutions
4. Environmental Impacts of Coltan mining: Deforestation/Soil Erosion