In our science class, we are in the middle of a unit called Mining for Mobiles, where we are learning about elements, and the periodic table. We are also doing a project on metals in technology, so we each chose a piece of technology to research the metals inside. I chose the Sony Xperia Z5, which is a smartphone by Sony, as the name implies.
The metals inside the Sony Xperia Z5, and many other electronics, are gold, and the three Ts, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. These metals each have a specific use because of their properties. Gold is used to coat the wiring on the circuit boards in electronics, because of how conductive gold is. Tin is used to solder the wires, because it has quite a low melting point. Tantalum is used to contain the electricity within the electronics, and tungsten is used to make them vibrate.
Each of these materials come from lots of places around the world, but that includes conflict mineral mines in the Republic of Congo.
Lots of armed groups in the Republic of Congo are smuggling what we call “conflict minerals” into neighbouring countries to have them sent to Asia, to be processed into components, to then be sent around the world for use in electronics. These conflict minerals consist mostly of gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten; the materials used in many different electronics. These armed groups threaten people and enslave them, and make them mine the conflict minerals for them to smuggle out of the country. Because of this, these armed groups make millions of dollars illegally, and also cause the worst violence since World War II.
The production of electronics like phones takes so many rare materials that it has a very negative impact. Just as an example, a ton of iPhones would have 324x more gold than a ton of gold ore from the Yanacocha Complex, on average. A ton of iPhones would also have 13x more copper than a ton of copper ore from the Escondida copper mine, on average, and 6.5x as much silver as a ton of silver ore from the Cannington silver mine, on average.
These are both very large issues with the production of electronics, like Sony Xperia Z5s, so we need a way to solve these issues, or at least minimalise them. One way to do that, is to demand conflict-free products from companies that use conflict minerals in their electronics. Another way to help is to find a company that doesn’t use conflict minerals to produce their electronics. You could also look for a company that uses less rare materials to produce their electronics.
This would help, because when companies don’t take any conflict minerals, the armed groups in the Republic of Congo start to not make any profit, then they would give up on trying to make money off of conflict minerals. This would also help, because if companies that use conflict minerals, or lots of rare materials, have less customers, they’ll make less profit, and change their business, or change the way they produce their products, to be more ethical.
ENOUGHproject. “Conflict Minerals 101.” YouTube. YouTube, 18 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
“Mining Your IPhone.” 911 Metallurgist. Neo Mammalian Studios, 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
XB. “Sony Xperia Z5 Now on Sale in Japan.” Xperia Blog RSS. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.