Saturday, May 16, 2009

Conflict Metals and the Congo

So I recently saw a documentary (Let's Make Money) that touched on quite a few topics that I knew very little
about and that made me really scared for the future and the morality of many countries, especially the United States. It's hard for me to believe some of the things that were said and still be proud to be an American citizen. I'm not planning on going into them all right now, and I don't even know that I would recommend seeing this movie (that was long and seemed to be less for the layman and more for an audience of economic experts that already had a strong background in everything talked about in the movie).
One of the things that was very briefly looked at, though, was some of the horrible things that go on in African countries so that the bigger economic giants can make more money. I became interested and thus began doing some research, and it is from this that I came to learn about CONFLICT METALS. (Click the link for a very good definition of what this means).
Most people know about conflict diamonds (or at least learned about them from the movie Blood Diamond.), but I gather that most people (Americans, at least) are fairly ignorant when it comes to conflict metals.
Basically, any electronic device I own or could buy contains metals (the three T's - tin, tantalum, and tungsten; also copper, cobalt, coltan, and gold) that were originally mined in war and conflict zones in Africa (ESPECIALLY the Congo).
Approximately 45,000 people die horribly every month so that these raw materials (used in our laptops, cell phones, televisions, etc. . .) can be extracted and exported.
Women and children are regularly raped, beaten, and brutally tortured (often in front of their husbands and fathers - sometimes by their husbands and fathers).
I think that it is vitally important that the American (and European and Asian and Australian) people are educated as to what goes on in the Congo (also Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Uganda) and that, as consumers with power, we do something about it.
I have found two great websites that explain the problem in detail and give ideas about what can be done. I would highly recommend checking them out.
The Enough Project was created in 2006 to fight against genocide and crimes against humanity.
Raise Hope for Congo focuses more primarily on raising awareness and fighting against the sex crimes and violence going on in the Congo.

If you won't go read these web sites, you can always sign the petition asking for companies to sign a pledge to
1. trace the supply chain for all tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold in their products to verify their mines of origin; and
2.conduct independently verifiable supply chain audits to document the routes taken, intermediaries involved, and transactions made from mine of origin to final product.

We can make a difference if we try, and we should.

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