Monday, November 03, 2008

The blood of Congo is in your mobile phone

Congo. More agony on our screens. Why? It is not just the Tutsis getting back at the Hutus. It is also due to the world's appetite for mobile phones. Well, mobile phones and any other bit of electronic equipment that uses capacitors "particularly for applications requiring high performance, a small compact format and high reliability, ranging widely from hearing aids and pacemakers, to airbags, GPS, ignition systems and anti-lock braking systems in automobiles, through to laptop computers, mobile phones, video game consoles, video cameras and digital cameras". [Wikipedia]

The rebel Hutus under Laurent Nkunda fund their war effort by trading in minerals, especially Coltan. Their exports are supposed to be sanctioned from Congo, but they
go out through Rwanda no problem.

Bit like opium trade sustaining the Taleban.

Cabot Supermetals claim to be the "Global leader in production of tantalum and niobium", but they swear that they do not source their tantalum from Congo.

Rohm are at the top of a Google search for tantalum. They have a CSR page, but a search for Congo produces no results. Maybe they've never heard of it.

So I am going to ask Vodafone, my mobile supplier, whether they can assure me that they make sure their capacitors are free of the blood of Congolese children, women and men.

I put this in their Contact Us form:

Is Vodafone careful to avoid sourcing the tantalum in your capacitors from Congolese mines?

You can copy and paste that to your own phone supplier if you like.

It is the least we can do.

6 comments:

Doria said...

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DocRichard said...

The above comment is an example of the mindless (literally = computer generated) commercial spam which is infecting our times. Let us deliver them a good email bombing.

Green Gordon said...

Richard, I imagine Vodaphone don't make their handsets. You'd be be best advised to go for the manufacturers, who will probably then fob you off with saying their components are made by third parties. Still worth a bit of investigation.

DocRichard said...

"Of the 85 companies named in the October 2002 report, eight, including Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, Trinitech International, Kemet Electronics Corporation, OM Group (OMG); and Vishay Sprague, are U.S.-owned"
http://us.oneworld.net/node/71424

"Companies benefiting from the coltan wars are based in Belgium, China, and Germany, along with several in the United States. Once processed, coltan is used by major firms such as Nokia, Compaq, and IBM in products as diverse as pacemakers, jet engines, digital cameras, and laptops, as well as cell phones".
http://us.oneworld.net/article/358139-cell-phone-boycott-protests-war-congo

Bob said...

No. It was a human being that wrote that. All the computer did was target it.

I can assure you there is no blood in my mobile - it tends to cause corrosion.

Actually there are more capacitors in your computer or TV. Dont bother writing to Vodafone (I'm sure they've got better things to do), just chuck them all in the bin and walk away conscience-free.

DocRichard said...

I think the Congo Coltan tantalum is used in the lightweight capacitors in mobile phones and other lightweight electronics.