Coltan and the Congo:
The Hidden Expense of Cell Phones
Congo problem is a world problem. Victory will be continental in its
reach and its consequences and so would defeat.” Che Guevara
Most of us only
think about our cell phone bill when the cost of cell phones
is mentioned. Rarely do people in the Western world consider the
cost in human lives.
Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to 80% of the world's coltan
reserves. Coltan is in huge demand by the electronic industry. It is
an ore that contains tatalum. Tantalum is an essential metal used in
the production of cell phones and lap tops. It allows them to be
more compact. And it can be used at very high temperatures.
Miniaturization depends on Colton.
billion people now use cell phones or laptops. Those tiny cell
phones laid end to end would reach half way to the moon. Demand
would decrease if people did not replace cell phones so often. But
owners change them on average every 12 months.
phones would also help reduce demand. But the four major electronics
companies--Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon—all score an F in
their efforts to recycle. They work with ReCellulaare who is
non-compliant with recycling standards.
in Tucker, GA is a rare ethical and effective recycler.
tatalum can not be recycled.
export of Coltan is a driving force behind the violence in the DRC.
Nearly 6,000,000 people have been killed in the Congo since 1996.
About 51,400 Congolese have died from war-related causes each month
since August 1998. Nearly half a million women have been raped.
It is ironic
that the people of the Congo have suffered massive colonization,
misery, poverty, and death because their country was rich in gold,
diamonds, rubber—and now Coltan. They face
a battle for the metals that make our technological society vibrate
and ring and bling. The Congo’s mineral wealth has raised
billions of dollars for financial markets in London, New York, Paris
In the late
1800’s King Leopold of Belgium colonized the Congo. In 23 years
under his reign ten million Congolese died. (That was half the
population.) Belgium brutally exploited the Congo for its rubber and
Ivory. Leopold’s mining bosses and armies would cut off a hand of
workers if they didn’t work fast enough or if they made late
deliveries. They would also bring a severed hand to bosses to prove
that a worker didn’t meet their bounty.
multi-national mine owners are not as brutal as Leopold. But the
Congolese people are still crushed by poverty and wars. Wealthy
conglomerates sign lucrative deals with surrounding governments and
armed rebels to extract the valuable minerals.
Both Rawanda and
Uganda have waged armed invasions of the Congo for colton and gold
and cassiterite. And they left armed groups behind who either profit
by mining or by taxing trucks carrying minerals. The Congo’s own
army also runs mines and pockets profits.
corporations like Canada’s Anvil Mining which merged with
Tente Mining, South Africa’s Anglogold Ashanti, and the US
Phelps Dodge/Freeport McMoRun provide logistics and finances to
support armed groups to enable the illegal exploitation of Colton.
Recently Anvil and Phelps bought a mine for $15 million which is
worth $60 BILLION.
industry often controls workers at gun point. But whether working
“voluntarily” or by force, a miner in the Congo earns only $1 for
about two pounds of Colton.
has a “hand” in the Congo’s wealth. George Forest, Belgium owner of
Katanga Mining, funded the political party of the Congo’s current
President. This set the course for the largest mining complex in the
Mass media will
not report the reasons for the slaughter and enslavement in the
Congo. Western values and wealth are too entrenched in this
bloodbath to risk exposing the truth. The people of the Congo face
enormous global forces, foreign governments, global mining
conglomerates, multi-lateral institutes, and local elites. They are
facing the greatest heist of the 21st century. And they need our
Let your cell
phone company know you will not buy from them again until they take
steps to stop the ravaging of the Congo. Also urge them to take
recyclying seriously and to work with Collective Good in Tucker,
GA. And STOP replacing cell phones and laptops that still work.
For more info
and to get involved, go to friendsofthecongo.org.
Help Stop Femicide in Congo
agreement signed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 did not
end the war. An estimated 400,000 women have been raped in the past
ten years in what can only be called an act of femicide--the planned
and systemic destruction of women.
suffered fistulas from rapes with knives, guns and penises. Women
have been forced to eat dead babies. Soldiers with HIV are sent to
villages to rape wives in front of husbands, girls in front of
fathers. These attacks are part of a larger plan to loosen the
community’s grip on its natural resources, especially Colton . The
Congo is the only country with a large supply of this mineral.
newsite.vday.org/drcongo/background. Educate others by
holding a teach-in (raisehopeforcongo.org/node/16) for your
community. Watch “Beneath Her Pange” (newsite.vday.org/spotlight-wideo)
and “LUMO” (gomafilmproject.org)..
support a burgeoning grassroots women’s movement in the DRC and
around the world. Organizations include Heal Africa
(healafrica.org/cms/), Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
(hhi.harvard.edu), International Rescue Committee (theirc.org),
Raise Hope for Congo (raisehopeforcongo.org) and Human Rights Watch
(hrw.org/en/africa). Support Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource;
Power to Women and Girls of DRC (newsite.vday.org/drcongo), a global
tenfold increase in UN peacekeepers. This should include women
peacekeepers specifically trained in sexual violence. Write to your
that women be involved in any future peace talks. Write to your
arrest and prosecution of war criminals involved in sexual violence,
child soldiering and other atrocities at the International Criminal
Court. Write to your elected officials.
that President Obama’s administration put pressure on the Rwandan
and Congolese leadership to come together at the negotiating table.
Stop supporting Laurent Nkunda and the FDLR (Democratic Forces for
the Liberation of Rwanda), respectively.
the DRC government to make ending sexual violence a priority. Write
to President Josh Kabila. For a downloadable letter, visit
newsite.vday.org/drcongo/getinvolved. Tell him to train and support
many more women police officers to protect vulnerable women.
provide resources to raped and violated women. Donate to the City
of Joy, a joint project of Panzi Hospital (panzilhospitalbukavu.org),
V-Day and UNICEF. Help women turn their pain into power. Buy a
handmade Congolese bad (store-vday.org) to support the economic
empowerment of women survivors. To donate, go to secure.ga4.org/01/drcongo.
your local editorial boards. Ask them to cover the Congo war. Blog
about the Congo war.
Attend the Turning Pain into Power Tour (newsite.vday.org/pain-into-power-tour),
a nationwide tour coming to a city near you.
Eve’s List Is Reprinted from The