The Democratic Republic of Congo possesses 80% of the worlds coltan. Tantalum is manufactured from coltan, which is a used in manufacturing capacitors. Capacitors are used in nearly every electronic device, as it is a key element in circuit design. Without tantalum, companies would not be able to manufacture phones, computers and other electronics. The beginning of every technology manufacturing chain starts in the mines of Congo. Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, and their main source of income is through the export of minerals such as coltan. What is unsettling is the manner in which minerals have been obtained.
During the war in Rwanda, refugees flooded Congo and this brought much conflict within the country. Rebels from Rwanda also moved to Congo and began to control the mines. They would force children to work the mines, and would monitor the mines with their AK47’s. This could be considered a case of dirty hands, where consumers are responsible for the tension in Congo over their mines. Companies like Intel and Apple have used minerals that originated in Congo. By purchasing their products, are we responsible for the implications of the manufacturing of those products? Rebel groups compete and fight over mines in Congo, and children have been used for labor. The problem is complicated, but buying from Congo only prolongs their issues. At the same time, abandoning Congo as a source of these minerals could have negative effects. Taking away their main source of income could prove to be detrimental.
Recently, laws have been created to aid the conflict. Companies are being forced to trace their source of materials, and publicly state if they are using conflict minerals. Companies then put pressure on the Congolese government to enforce rules on mines. At mines, kids are not allowed to work and rebels are not allowed to oversee the work being done. In fact, this law is starting to create change in Congo. Many leaders in Congo realized that without a buyer, their minerals were useless. I’m glad to see that we are trying to avoid fueling a complicated problem in Congo.
This issue has been completely under reported, which is very concerning. I wonder how many US citizens realize that some of their electronics were manufactured using conflict minerals? The production of our electronics have come at the cost of Congolese conflict and many deaths as a result. Is this a case of myth and illusion? Do American media purposely omit these types of stories? This type of propaganda could give consumers the illusion that they aren’t contributing to conflict abroad. It makes it easier for big companies to use conflict minerals without getting any media attention for it. It promotes capitalism and would keep consumers unaware of their impact. An illusion where ignorance is bliss. Because sadly, we have all contributed to the mess in Congo, and nobody wants to know that. But without any media attention, the illusion remains the conflict continues.
If any, what kind of solutions are there? Are consumers responsible for conflicts abroad?
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