Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Those Innocent Little Hands

Science, Technology, & the Environment ---

Imagine a little boy or girl about 10 - 15 years-old.  She is involved in mining one of the three T's - tin, tantalum, or tungsten.  The hands of this young girl extract one of these minerals from the ground.  She was probably kidnapped by one of many armed groups in the Congo and was probably raped by members of that armed group.

The mineral extracted by this young girl is transported to a trading house and where it is bought by an exporter.  The exporter processes this conflict mineral then ships it across the border to buying houses in Rwanda, Uganda, or Burundi.  In the meanwhile, girl continues her hard work across the border in Congo mining one of the three T's and continues to be sexually abused by members of the armed group.

The conflict mineral extracted by this young girl is sent to metal processing companies or refiners in East Asia where it is smelted or chemically processed. The refiners then sell the refined mineral to electronics manufacturers of circuit boards, computer chips, cellphones, and other electronics devices.  You and I then purchase these devices.

So the hands that extracted the mineral that was processed or refined into the metal that was used in the manufacture of some electronic device, might very well have been the hands of a 10-15 year-old boy or girl kidnapped by an armed group in the Congo, raped, and forced to work in a mine that ultimately resulted in the  computer, notebook, iPad, laptop, or cellphone that you are using to read this blog.