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The Blood In Our Cell Phones

The Blood In Our Cell Phones

 

Recently, I watched the documentary Blood in the Mobile about the origins of some of the minerals which make the metals in our cell phones. In the film, director Frank Poulsen travels to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to learn more about the origin of the minerals. He learns that minerals mined in the eastern provinces of the DRC are used to fund the militias fighting the civil war. Reports in 2008 from a UN group of experts, cited on the film’s website, found that all of the main militias fighting in eastern DRC are financed through trading minerals, which are processed into metals that are used to manufacture cell phones.

About 45,000 die each month in the DRC, mostly from the effects of displacement in the country’s eastern provinces, according to Raise Hope for Congo. Armed groups “routinely commit acts of rape and sexual violence against Congolese women and girls.”

Nokia’s long ties to the DRC’s suffering

Poulsen interviewed someone from Nokia, a Fortune 50 cell phone company. Every third cell phone in the world is a Nokia. “Nokia are market leaders in social responsibility. If they’re using blood minerals the whole business is likely to do it,” Poulsen said. A century ago, Nokia was a rubber boot factory that obtained rubber from King Leopold’s slave colony, now the DRC. Clearly, the company has a history with exploitation in western Africa.

The person Poulsen interviewed from Nokia said the company took action in 2001 when it first became aware that a raw material called coltan, coming from the DRC, can be turned into tantalum, which is used in cell phones and other electronic products. The person from Nokia said the company went to its suppliers and asked if they could trace where the tantalum was coming from, and they discovered that there is no mechanism in place to determine the origin of the minerals. He also said Nokia is developing mechanisms to trace where the minerals come from.

“Nokia has known about blood minerals for 10 years,” Poulsen said. “They launch a new phone every third month, and even sell them in the Congo. And then they tell me they don’t know where the minerals come from. They say it’s impossible to trace the minerals in my phone. But it’s possible to trace all kinds of things.”

U.S. legislation leading the way

Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act, signed into law July 21, 2010, adds extra reporting requirements on Form 10-K, Form 20-F or Form 40-F to the U.S. Securities and Exchange (SEC) on the sources of “conflict minerals.”

A California State Senate Bill 861, authored by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett would ban the California Department of General Services from obtaining contracts with companies using Congo’s conflict minerals. The bill passed out of an Assembly committee a few weeks ago.

“This legislation will help cut off the cash flow, and support, for lawless militias engaged in heinous human rights violations,” Corbett said.

If you want to learn more about conflict minerals, the film can be viewed on LinkTV’s website in its entirety.

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Photo: DFID - UK Department for International Development

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35 comments

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1:04AM PDT on Oct 17, 2014

Tantalum used to manufacture cell phones but nokia refuse this statement, so definitely this statement may be in wrong. lowermycellphoneplan.com

4:16AM PDT on Apr 5, 2013

blood diamonds and blood minerals.. Man's greed for more at the expense of poor folks.

8:31AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

Well as consumers our duty is to try to trace the vital cycle of the productis we purchase, this way we can make intelligent choices at the momento of the desition

10:06AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

I have no idea of these facts! Thanks for opening my eyes!

6:41AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Taken to the ultimate bit of logic absolutely everything and everybody on the planet is linked so none of us can have the luxury of thinking we live absolutely faultlessly.

6:02AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

I don't have or want a cell phone.

5:29AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

but cute furry animals aren't used in our cell phones. so only 20% of care2 will care.

5:55AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

interesting info thanks for the article

11:11PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

like conflict stones, "dirty metals" are also a very big problem, and it's not just our phones either, it's tons of our metal and electronic products.

8:57PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

There are so many things that we own that have caused harm to our enviornment. But we take them for granted and wouldn't dream of doing without them. So much for self-righteousness.

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