*That’s not entirely true.
I have a phone, a Nokia E71 in fact, and it works. It even lets me surf the web, though not without squinting. To be honest, were I not surrounded by chatter of Instagram releasing its Android app, own an mp3 player that’s just about choked its last song, plus a tendency to leave the house confident and wind up lost, I probably wouldn’t be entertaining thoughts of a shiny new HTC One X.
I was moments away from ordering myself this snazzy white smartphone, when I remembered this blog and its focus of ending slavery. I also realised I never truly educated myself on the coltan issue.
What’s the coltan issue?
Coltan is a heat-resistant powder that’s used to make what the phone industry calls “pinhead capacitors”, which hold electrical current and store power in mobile phones. Eighty per cent of this resource is found and mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This fuels a war in the DRC and children work here. In short, many maintain their livelihood working on coltan mines so we can make calls and play Angry Birds.
Coltan mining is a well documented issue. Google it and most breaking news stories surrounding the scandal are dated 2001. The UN has had its say, some companies have expressed their desire to only purchase coltan mined ethically, responsibly, morally. A documentary called Blood Coltan (watch in full above) was made to further expose and educate people like you and I on the issue. But what’s changed?
From what I’ve gathered, this is where we’re at:
- A few big companies refused to buy slave-mined coltan, so smuggling is rife
- Outside of Africa, Australia and Brazil are also important coltan producers. A report and documentary from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists warn that coltan production is now spreading to places such as Venezuela and Colombia
- International policing and regulations are needed
- In September last year, Phone Story was released, a four-part game that critiques the very device you’re playing it on. It was promptly removed from Apple’s Appstore (for depicting cruelty to children, among other supposed infringements). Download Phone Story.
Conflict minerals 101
For those interested, here is some further reading: