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Conflict Minerals 101

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Hey, I´m John Prendergast of the Enough Project. I´ve been working on conflicts and in conflict zones in Africa for 25 years now. But I´ve never seen anything like the human devastation in eastern Congo. The violence there is worse than anywhere else in the world. Deadliest conflict in the world since World War II. And the highest rates of sexual violence in the entire world. It´s the most dangerous place to be a woman or a girl. A direct connection between our consumer appetites and the violence in eastern Congo. It´s a result of this. Your cellphone. Basically, there are four minerals that come from the Congo that are in every one of our electronics products: gold, and what we call the Three T´s - - tantalum, tin, and tungsten. Tantalum stores electricity in your phone. If you didn´t have tantalum in your phone It would fall silent. Tungsten makes your cellphone vibrate. And tin is used as a solder on circuitory. Congo has a lot of tin. Gold is used to coat the wiring and it´s the highest value metal inside every cellphone and laptop. Armed groups make millions each year trading these minerals. Guess what they buy? That´s why we call them conflict minerals. So here´s how minerals in the Congo get from the mine to your mobile phone. Basically, the armed groups in eastern Congo act like a mafia. The mines themselves are controlled and taxed by these armed groups, by these militias. And then, the smuggling routes, as they smuggle across the borders to neighboring countries, particularly Uganda and Rwanda, those smuggling points are all controlled by these armed groups. All these places, they´re making huge amounts of money by taxing and stealing the resources and smuggling them out of the country illegally. And the tool of choice, the human rights violation of choice of the militias and armed groups in the Congo is rape. In order to intimidate populations, and punish populations for supporting other groups. The minerals are smuggled out of Africa. They head to Asia. To smelting companies in Thailand, Malaysia, China, and India to be refined. Here, Congo´s minerals get mixed together with other minerals from around the world, making them difficult but not impossible to trace. Finally, the Three T´s and gold are processed into components and they end up all over the world in the products we know and love. Cellphones, Blackberries, laptops, iPods, video game systems, and digital cameras. So that´s all the bad news. The good news is, because we have a direct role in fueling the violence, as innocent and inadvertent as it might be, we actually have a role in bringing it to an end. First thing we need to do is to create a demand, a consumer demand for conflict-free products. We need to get in touch with our cellphone manufacturers and our laptop companies and tell them we want conflict-free products. Commit to buy conflict-free Visit To email your commitment to the top electronics companies. After 5.5 million deaths in eastern Congo, when is enough enough? We can all help end the war in the Congo. It´s your call. Raise Hope For Congo Produced and Directed by: Robert Padavick Editing and Animation: Jeff Trussell Video footage courtesy: Bureau for International Reporting, Lisa Shannon Photography courtesy: AP, Sasha Lezhnev, GRG

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 2 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Robert Padavick
Director: Robert Padavick
Views: 183
Posted by: tenebrae on Jul 5, 2010

Congo's conflict minerals leave a trail of destruction as they make their way from the mines in eastern Congo to the mobile phone in your pocket. How does the process work? What is the human cost? What can consumers do to help end the violence being fueled by Congo's illicit mineral trade? Enough's John Prendergast breaks it all down.

Visit to find out how you can help end the world's deadliest war in the Congo.

Video directed and produced by Robert Padavick. Editing and animation by Jeff Trussell.

Copyright 2009 Center for American Progress.

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