Your smartphone – the one item you can’t leave home without; your fifth limb.
It allows you to communicate at lightening speed and provides you with up to date news alerts, email access, Facebook updates, and relevant Tweets.
Thanks to Apple, Samsung, RIM, and HTC, we are perpetually plugged in. In today’s modern and accelerated world, a smartphone is mankind’s “best friend.”
But, how well do you know your “best friend”? Do you know its deepest, darkest secrets? Conflict minerals.
Where are Conflict Minerals Coming From?
At the heart of our smartphones is tantalum, a component of a circuit that is responsible for holding the phones electric charge thus maintaining its mobile capacity.
While imperative to the smartphone’s function, this common technology comes from tainted origins.
Tantalum is a conflict mineral, meaning that the proceeds from its extraction and sale are used to finance civil wars and militia atrocities. One of the starkest examples of this exists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to approximately 64% of global tantalum stores. Here, militias continue to fight over usage rights of the mines, and in the process, use the funds derived from the minerals to fuel a 17 year long war that has killed upwards of 5.4 million people and continues to inflict gross suffering on the Congolese people.
While ‘conflict-free’ certification programs seek to reduce the market share of minerals that are extracted in war zones, the vast and convoluted nature of the electronics supply-chain greatly limits progress. For example, Apple revealed that their minerals are derived from 211 smelter suppliers located around the world, making the circumstances under which the minerals in question were extracted very difficult to identify.
Efforts Made to Stop Conflict Minerals?
The American Dodd-Frank Law of 2010 mandated that publicly traded supply companies certify that their supply chain for products using tantalum and other conflict minerals, such as tin, tungsten and gold, are “conflict free.” Various tech companies have already began to trace the source of metals they use to manufacture smartphones.
According to the human rights group, the Enough Project, such efforts have resulted in the diminished use of metals mined from Congo.
Now that we know our smartphones are made with conflict minerals, what is the next step?
A new company based out of the Netherlands called FairPhone has created a fair trade “ethical” smartphone that provides an alternate to mainstream smartphones. This smartphone with a conscience will be guaranteed conflict mineral free, as well as fair, safe, and green friendly.
While this phone may not be for everyone, these types of new ideas encourage awareness, support transparency, and demonstrate a keen effort to ensure that the next generations of smartphones are “conflict free.”