Coltan in the Congo

Lema and Amani Did you know that each time we buy a  new smart phone or tablet we are condoning rapes, mutilations and murders in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Tanya and I certainly didn’t know about the coltan mining industry destroying familes and villages in the eastern Congo until we met Lema Shamamba, a refugee from the area, who now lives in Ranui.

Last week Lema and her daughter Amani sang to us a very moving song they have have composed for all cellphone users, which they had sung at their Sunday church service that morning.

It is a plea for all users of cellphones to learn about the mining of coltan in the Congo, and the atrocities being committed by mining companies and the militia who support them.

Smartphones, tablets and many other electronic gadgets usually contain coltan or its derivatives. These are politely called “conflict minerals” because they are mined by unscrupulous companies, often with the backing of greedy and corrupt local or invading  militia, and without any of the controls exercised on other common minerals such as gold and diamonds.  If local people object, they are tortured, or murdered.

We have an obligation, we think, to question different manufacturers about the steps they are taking to to find alternatives to, or ethical sources of, these minerals.

For more information see the excellent Wikipedia entry:

Let’s ask our government to use its influence on the Security Council to raise this issue and initiate sanctions against governments which permit the appalling practices associated with unlicensed mining.

We’ll be writing  to Helen Clark to ask if she can do something. In the meantime, our old cellphones will just have to do.

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