As we learned from our trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the materials used to make these pretty things – materials like tungsten, tantalum, tin, and gold – aren’t pretty. In the Guardian last week, the Congolese writer Delly Mawazo petitioned a post-Jobs Apple to “make a conflict-free iPhone” – one that doesn’t include slave labor or civil war as central components.
“While minerals from the Congo have enriched your life, they have often brought violence, rape and instability to my home country,” he writes. “That’s because those armed groups fighting for control of these mineral resources use murder, extortion and mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations, which helps them secure control of mines, trading routes and other strategic areas.”
The unrefined metallic ore combulite-tantelite – or Coltan – is crucial to the finely-tuned inner components found in nearly every phone, computer, video game systems, car device. And in addition to Australia and Brazil, much of the world’s coltan comes from the DRC, home to a brutal, decade-long war between rebel factions and occupying armies that’s left 5.4 million people dead since fighting started in 1998, making it the deadliest armed conflict since World War II.
Read the rest at Motherboard.