Nov 1, 2008

Before You Buy a New Cellphone, Consider Coltan in the Congo

If you haven't heard about the long, raging war in the Demcratic Republic of Congo, then you probably haven't heard of coltan. Neither makes big news, and with things like the U.S. election overshadowing all other worldwide happenings, it's no wonder that most people have never heard of this mineral.

Coltan is in cellphones and other electronics. The vast majority of the mineral deposits are in the (DR) Congo, where men hammer with bare hands to remove it for our fancy phones. You won't be surprised to hear that they're paid shit for work in deplorable conditions. There's a short video about coltan miners and the way the mineral factors into war and multi-national companies at this link. You might also find Consumer International's reports on coltan helpful. In general, Consumer International is a good place to start if you find yourself pressed to buy something new.

1 comment:

Helene said...

Hi Rachel,
Thank you for that very interesting video about the relationships between coltan, mobile and war...
I wrote something about coltan in Congo and cellular phone in french in april (here: where I explained that to extract that coltan, people not from around there came to work on the mines, and all these people had to be fed... with the "local food" such as gorillas and okapis...
My son broke my phone this summer and I did not buy a new one!
Thanks for all your posts. I'm happy to read about your installing in London!
Helene, from Compact France