Your smartphone is killin' kids in the Congo!!!!!1!
...Thing is, it kind of is, and there's a clever little app dramatizing it (and other ickworthy supply-chain awfuls) that Apple bounced like a hot, hot tater the minute they figured it out. Naturally, it's on Android now. (D'ya wanna walled garden or marketplace? Got both).
But how dead is it killing these kids? Tracing where a nice, smelted heap of niobium or tantalum came from turns out to be tricky but we can look at simple numbers; under "Coltan," which is what they're mining to get the stuff, Wikipedia lists tantalum producers by percentage for the last 19 years, through 2009. That year, the Congo was third from last with 13 percent, behind Canada and Australia -- but they only got that slot because the former top producer (over half the world's supply!), Australia's Sons of Gwalia, is in the process of self-destruction. For the previous 18 years, the Congo was in last place, usually a distant last. Around about 5% of the tantalum out there was extracted by photogenically-desperate children in the Congo.
Does that mean you shouldn't care? You'd care if you had to hold a gun on a kid* for an hour and twenty minutes a day so's you could have a phone, I think; but it also means yellin' at #SMARTPHONE MAKER over 5% of the raw materials used (probably by yet another company) to make parts that comprise possibly 20% of the phone they sell is not going to get them to care.
If you're concerned about the mess in the Congo, stop playing games on your phone and address the problem; otherwise you're just rubbing feel-good snake oil on yourself. Instead of doing something.
...H'mm. Where have I heard that phrase before?
* Are they? The presence of armed men in a venue where resources with a significant value-to-weight ratio are extracted is generally -- though certainly not always -- about guarding the resource instead of keeping workers working. This factiod isn't surfacing any of the online info I can find about coltan mining in the Congo.
6 months ago