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Cellphones The Almighty Buck Politics

Conflict Minerals and Cell Phones 136

Posted by Soulskill
from the hit-your-back-button-before-you-feel-like-a-jerk dept.
Presto Vivace sends in this story at Slate: "If you are reading this on a smartphone, then you are probably holding in your palm the conflict minerals that have sent the biggest manufacturing trade group in the U.S. into a court battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At stake in this battle between the National Association of Manufacturers and the government is whether consumers will know the potentially blood-soaked origins of the products they use every day and who gets to craft rules for multinational corporations—Congress or the business itself. ... These minerals are tantalum (used in cellphones, DVD players, laptops, hard drives, and gaming devices), tungsten, tin, and gold, if they are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries including Rwanda, where the mineral trade has fueled bloody conflicts. The rule requiring disclosure of conflict minerals will go into effect in 2014. Congress included it in Dodd-Frank out of concern for what is known as the “resource curse”—the phenomenon wherein poor counties with the greatest natural resources end up with the most corrupt and repressive governments. The money earned from selling the natural resources props up these harsh regimes and funds violence against their citizens and neighbors."
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Conflict Minerals and Cell Phones

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  • Resource Curse? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:23PM (#44906943) Homepage Journal

    “resource curse”—the phenomenon wherein poor counties with the greatest natural resources end up with the most corrupt and repressive governments.

    My ass - that shit is engineered by the people and groups who stand to profit from preventing those people from taking ownership of their national resources.

    The De Beers artificial diamond shortages [wikipedia.org] being a prime example.

  • Conflict Diamonds (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:23PM (#44906949)
    Somehow I expect this is like conflict diamonds. In a war, it's hard for De Beers to keep a strangle hold on diamond mining, so they start a PR campaign against free market diamonds. I wouldn't be surprised if the interests driving this are economic not social welfare.
  • by 32771 (906153) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:36PM (#44907099) Journal

    Nowadays there are MLCCs at 220uF that could replace Tantalum in a number of applications, not to mention Niobium based capacitors that derive their raw materials from Brasil and Canada.

  • by dcooper_db9 (1044858) on Friday September 20, 2013 @03:54PM (#44907301)

    This isn't about naturally rare minerals, it's about the one mineral that's rare by design. This is the latest in a long history of disinformation campaigns intended to keep DeBeers' control of the diamond. In fact, diamonds are so common in nature that there are beaches in Africa where they wash up on shore. You could pick them up like seashells if it weren't for the armed guards ready and willing to shoot anyone who tries. If DeBeers ever lost control of the market the value of diamonds would plumet.

    When General Electric developed the first artificial diamond DeBeers bought the company. When Israel threatened to dump their cache on the market, DeBeers practically bought the country. They spent billions buying artificial diamonds from the Soviets, just to keep them off the market. In the US, when DeBeers was investigated for antitrust violations they put every employee in their country on a plane and sent them back to Europe. In one night. The next day there was a new person in every US job, and not one of those people could testify about how DeBeers operates. If you ever want to have your life turned upside down, try buying and selling used diamonds. See just how long it takes for DeBeers to shut you down.

    DeBeers modus operandi is to back whoever controls a country, as long as they are willing to do business. If not, DeBeers will back a coup. So, if you want to control an African country, step 1 is to gain control over the diamonds. If you want to get rich, step 1 is to take over a country. THAT is why there's so much violence in Africa. The regime that labels "conflict" minerals is just one of the tools DeBeers uses to maintain control. The "conflict" countries are places where more than one group operates. Whatever group is on the outside will smuggle diamonds out, undermining price controls.

    The history of the DeBeers cartel is the most fascinating and disturbing story that's rarely told. If you haven't read it I strongly recommend a trip to the local library. Don't wait for Hollywood to tell the story. They're too busy writing a sequel to "Blood Diamonds". On contract of course. The sad truth is that EVERY diamond is a blood diamond.

  • fairphone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @04:20PM (#44907551)

    This is perhaps the right place to plug the Fairphone ( www.fairphone.com ), an experiment in making electronic products free from conflict minerals and exploitation of workers. It's not a commercial phone manufacturer (they're only making 25.000, at least to start with), it's more a proof of concept and they seem to be pulling it off. Obviously it's relatively easy to source non-conflict minerals when you're only making 25.000 units, not so easy to scale that up under current conditions.

    But if every manufacturer were forced to disclose where they sourced their raw materials from, and consumers reacted by avoiding blood minerals, this could actually have effects on the ground: the value of conflict mines would be reduced as fewer manufacturers bought from them, and the incentive to fight over control of said mines would be reduced accordingly. The parties in conflict would have a strong incentive to find peace so they could resume sales--better share profits with your rival that sit on top of a mine that cannot sell anything.

    Of course the companies will fight tooth and nail to stop this. In the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of shareholder value. Captcha: "malice". Heh

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