Is Your Cell Phone Fueling War in The Congo?

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In your cell phone – which you may be reading this on right now – are four things that could be contributing to the deadliest war since World War II: gold, tungsten, tin and tanalum.

All of those minerals are found in The Democratic Republic of Congo, the site of a brutal, deadly war over the nation’s massive natural resources. A large part of the violence stems from attempts to control the illicit trade in minerals, and in a mafia-like arrangement with mines and smuggling runs, the minerals are shipped out of Congo, into eastern Asia. There, they are smelted and refined, where they then find their way into our cell phones and other technologies.

The profits from that trade are used to purchase weapons, which obviously worsens and lengthens the conflict. Worse still, in much of the violence – in which over 5 million people have died – rape is used a tool of war, meant to intimidate and destroy the lives of those who are considered the enemy.

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It is worth noting that the minerals do not simply end up in ‘cheap knock-offs in China’, but the iPhones, Android devices and other bleeding-edge tech used around the world on a day-to-day basis.

What can be done about it? Well, right now, to attempt to get a massive company like Apple or HTC to seek other sources or materials is too large a step. First, awareness must be raised.

And that’s the aim of Raise Hope For Congo, a program meant to spread the word about both the conflict in Congo. At the top of the list of their aims is the need for consumers to be able to trace the source of the minerals used in their electronics. Beyond the fact that far too few people even know of the violence at all, even less know of the connection between modern technology and the war that is being fought over some of their component minerals. All of this is done with the aim of especially improving the lives of girls and women in Congo.

In order to learn more, you can check out the site here.

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang

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  • I’m glad there’s an awareness campaign and suggestions of what to do. I don’t think anyone feels good about this but we do want alternatives.

  • Thanks for posting this. It’s nice to see people actually talking about the conflict in Congo, as opposed to just praising the iPhone or musing about which celebrity is having an affair with whom. We all need to be more informed about what’s going on in the world, and how other countries’ problems impact us — and vice versa. I had no idea that they were mainly fighting over minerals, and it seems weird that we use those minerals in our cell phones without even thinking about the consequences. I’m going to check out that site right now.

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