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Project Enough, Violence in the Congo, and Conflict Minerals In Your Pocket



I wasn’t aware this was an issue until I started reading about it today. Apparently much of the violence in the Congo is due to warlords trying to control the mining and distribution of minerals that go into our shiny gadgets. Specifically these minerals include tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold, and they are called by those seeking to stop the violence “conflict minerals.”

Nicholas Kristof penned an editorial about this in the New York Times and explains the conflict and the violence in pretty distinct terms. He compares the situation to Blood Diamonds labeling mobile handhelds “Blood Phones.” He also points to Enough Project, and the video below that they produced parodying the I’m a Mac, I’m a PC commercials. Apparently, although the bill isn’t final yet, both the US House and US Senate have included language in the bill on financial reforms about “conflict minerals.” But sadly, and apparently, the situation in the Congo is so complex, and possibly so out of hand, that legislative action, protests, web pages, and switching suppliers won’t just solve the problem.

It’s always been a sad commentary on mankind that progress is often made and riches gained at the expense (sometimes brutally) of others less fortunate. It’s often easy to turn a blind eye if it is not in your backyard or on your radar. I admire those trying to raise awareness (again, I wasn’t aware of this until today), but given human nature and history, I don’t see any campaign changing the scenario, unfortunately.

Share your thoughts if you care to.



  1. Steve S

    06/27/2010 at 1:57 pm

    There was a short, but interesting article about developing mineral scarcities a month or two ago in Popular Science (the world’s best magazine). One was tantalum, used to make capacitors. Apparently, it’s in very short supply.

    Although everyone (it seems) talks about peak oil, there are other important scarcities developing. Makes one think that we’d better get the space program fired back up, and the sooner, the better…

  2. gmich

    06/27/2010 at 8:53 pm

    Thanks for highlighting this issue, Warner. As someone who loves gadgets and who also has (or tries to have) a strong social conscience, I think about issues like this quite a bit. I don’t want to contribute to the problem, yet I find myself standing in line for an iPad on launch day or upgrading my phone when I don’t really need a new one (the trend toward “disposable tech” and its impact on the environment is something I think we should all be more concerned about). I know GBM probably can’t feature too many stories like this one or you’d risk losing readers, but from my perspective it’s good to be reminded once in a while that the tech world is part of a wider world where, too often, money is made on the backs of the most vulnerable.

  3. usb world

    06/28/2010 at 1:01 am

    I am happy to come here….Thank you for your story…I agree with you..It’s always been a sad commentary on mankind that progress is often made and riches gained at the expense (sometimes brutally) of others less fortunate….Keep on…

  4. Steve N

    06/28/2010 at 3:12 am

    Thanks Warner for bringing that to my/our attention.


  5. Tai-Pan

    06/28/2010 at 4:13 am

    Warner thanks for brining this to our attention. We will promote the story on our site as well.

    I had no idea this situation existed or the magnitude of the problem. But people do need to be made aware.

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