The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a war-ravaged nation in central Africa, has long been known as the origin of many vital metals used in high-end consumer electronics. That means that every piece of tech you purchased over the last couple of decades probably went towards funding one of many militias that often use children to mine for those rare-earth minerals. Those militias are responsible for much of the violence in that nation. It’s impossible to tell for certain, but there’s a good chance the computer I’m using to type this post, and the computer you’re using to read it, are both irrevocably tainted.
It’s a horrific situation, and is the most insidious manifestation of income inequality in the world at large – brutal suffering and violence in a faraway land to help create household items for those in developed countries. It’s terrifyingly subtle.
But, if new numbers from the Enough Project, an organization dedicated to stamping out reliance on what are called “conflict minerals,” are accurate, the problem seems to be trending in a better direction. According to the Enough Project, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, and HP have all begun the process of tracking all metals used in production of devices, along with audits to check for metals coming from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On the other hand, Canon, Nikon, Sharp, and HTC all received failing grades, due to a lack of effort to address the problem. Nintendo was the lowest rated company, receiving a zero for apparently having failed to even acknowledge the existence of the problem, according to the Enough Project’s report. Nintendo’s response was that the company, “outsources the manufacture and assembly of all Nintendo products to our production partners and therefore is not directly involved in the sourcing of raw materials that are ultimately used in our products,” which is maybe the most galling brushing off of responsibility ever put into a canned response.
It’s good to see that part of the problem is being addressed, but consumer electronics is plagued by far more ethical problems than this – unfair labor practices in outsourced factories persist, and will continue. For long into the future, enjoying gadgets will come with a terrible, unseen, incalculable human cost.
Via NY Daily News