“Maybe two children have died for you to have your mobile phone”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

“Maybe two children have died for you to have your mobile phone”

Consumers of mobile phones are called to reflect on the bloody exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of a raw material for these devices, the tantalum.
The report is Inés Benítez of the IPS News Agency and reproduced by Brazil in fact, 9/12/2012.
Consumers of mobile phones are called to reflect on the bloody exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of a raw material for these devices, the tantalum.

“It may be that two children have died for you to have this cell phone,” said Jean-Bertin, a 34-year tours FC of denouncing the “silence” about the crimes committed in her country for exploration of strategic raw materials such as coltan (columbite-tantalite). The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has at least 64% of global reserves of coltan, popular name in central Africa to designate the rocks formed by two minerals, columbite and tantalite.
The tantalite if extracts the tantalum carbide, transition, greyish blue color and metallic luster, corrosion resistant and is used in capacitors for a huge variety of products, such as mobile phones, computers and tablets, as well as hearing aids, prosthetics, implants and welds for turbines, among many others. “Curse of the RDC is your wealth. The West and all that manufacture weapons put the nose there, “laments Jean-Bertin, who arrived eight years ago to the Spanish city of Malaga, from Kinshasa, where his parents and two brothers.
The coltan extraction contributes to maintain one of the largest armed conflict in Africa, which caused more than five million deaths, mass exodus and violations of 300 thousand women in the last 15 years, according to human rights organizations. This was recognized in 2001 by the Security Council of the United Nations (UN), which confirmed the existence of the “link between the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”. A group of experts convened by the Council recorded until 2003 about 157 companies and individuals from around the world linked, in one way or another, to the illegal extraction of valuable raw materials in the DRC.
The exploitation of coltan in dozens of informal mines, sprinkled in the jungle of Eastern DRC, finances the armed groups and corrupt military and employees. The small-scale extraction, with no quality control, involves a labor regime near slavery and great harm to the environment and to the health of workers, including children, according to the documentary of 2010 Blood in the Mobile (Cellular blood), Danish Director Frank Piasecki.
However, industry sources, such as Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center (TIC), warn that the deposits of coltan in the DRC and the entire central African region are far from being the main source of tantalum. The Australia was the primary producer of this mineral for several years and more recently has grown South American and Asian production, in addition to other sources, such as recycling. The TIC estimates that the largest known reserves of tantalum are in Brazil and Australia, and lately there are information about their existence in Venezuela and in Colombia.
The DRC has other natural wealth also smuggled, like gold, cassiterite (tin ore), cobalt, copper, precious woods and diamonds. However, are in last place in the Human development index 2011. In this scenario, the denunciations of organised civil society increasingly appealing to consumers of products that contain these materials. In Spain, the network entities to the Democratic Republic of the Congo-a coalition of non-governmental organizations and research centers-launched in February the campaign not with my cell phone, to require the commitment of manufacturers do not use coltan illegal source.
The emergence of new sources of tantalum and recycling should help reduce the pressure of demand on the coltan for tours FC. The Organization Entreculturas and the Spanish Red Cross promoting since 2004 the national campaign donate your mobile, to encourage the delivery of old appliances for re-use or recycling of their components. The obtained funds are invested in projects of education, environment and development to poor sectors of the population. Until July 732,025 appliances were collected and collected more than one million euros, told Tierramérica campaign coordinator in Entreculturas, Ester Sanguino.
However, foundations and companies dedicated to recycling, heard by Tierramérica, agree that it would be impossible to fill with this source a significant portion of the growing worldwide demand for tantalum. The pressure of the market causes people to exchange the phone for another more modern from time to time, so the recycling, even done on a large scale, would not give account, a source told Tierramérica BCD ‘s, Electro company computer and electronics reuse and recycling. And mobile telephony is just a segment of current applications of tantalum.
Apple and Intel announced in 2011, which would buy tantalum from former Belgian colony. Nokia and Samsung have made similar declarations. Samsung ensures in its corporate page that has taken steps to ensure that its terminals “do not contain material derived from the coltan extracted bishops urged illegally”. In fact, the business codes of conduct have come to fill the void of categorical standards.
The greatest effort is the OECD guidelines for multinational companies, because it includes all industrialized nations members of the Organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD). However, the long and opaque coltan circuit tours FC makes it difficult to demonstrate that such codes are met. Minerals exploited illegally are smuggled through neighbouring countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, to Europe, China and other destinations.
“The rebel groups proliferate by the richness of the land in coltan, diamonds or gold”, told Tierramérica the Coordinator of humanitarian organization in the DRC, Raimundo Rivas Farmamundi. Neighbouring Governments are “accomplices” and “so far everything is supported and covered by the recipient undertakings, in his final destination, these riches,” he said. “There are many economic interests around the business of coltan,” warned Jean-Bertin. Meanwhile, in DRC “the killings are real. The blood is everywhere, and, however, it is as if the country did not exist “.
So it raises expectations to the decision of the United States ‘ securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which, on 22 August, regulates a chapter of the law on Consumer Protection and Wall Street reform, concerning “conflict minerals”. 1,502 law establishes that all national or international companies already required to deliver annual information to the SEC and that manufaturem or contract manufacturing of products containing one of the four conflict minerals (Tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold) should adopt measures to determine their origin through the analysis of the supply chain.
However, the first report shall be presented in May 31, 2014, deadline considered excessive by human rights defenders who denounce the crimes that continue to be committed in the DRC despite the presence since 2010 a UN peacekeeping mission. With the look dominated by anger and his daughter six months in the arms, the Bishops urged Jean-Bertin insists that the armed groups “give weapons to many children and require login to one or another bunch”. For Rivas, “the only solution is a strong Government in the DRC, which can respond to the attacks, and a real international support that penalise those companies suspected of importing minerals from areas in conflict”.



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