Mining for Our Devices: Where does it all come from?

The iPhone 6s 32 GB

The iPhone 6s 32 GB is produced by Apple. In Japan, in costs 61,800 yen. By creating a demand for these devices, we are causing Apple to source materials like tin, tungsten and tantalum. Since February in 2014, Apple follows and promises to follow a conflict-free material guarantee in their devices such as iPods, laptops and iPads. Tin is used in solder, which is pretty much a metal glue that is used on the inside of your iPhone to keep parts together. Tungsten and tantalum is both used in the electricity/ battery area. Tungsten is used for prolonged battery life, and tantalum regulates how much power is going to different parts of the phone. For example, when you open the camera app, tungsten will allow tantalum to take power to the camera to allow it to take the photo or video. These materials are used because they are the best at what they do. At least from the materials that we know of.

 

What Are the Impacts of Using These Materials from the Congo?

  1. Economic:
    In 2014, Apple has made a promise to all of their customers that they wouldn’t be getting tin, tungsten, gold or tantalum from war zones in The Congo. This had a economic effect on our world because Apple is the biggest and most widespread electronic company in the world. Now that they have gone conflict zone free, more people will follow in their footsteps and hopefully, become conflict-free. With more electronic companies becoming conflict-free, there are less children and forced workers working in mines for no profit.  

    2. Environmental: 

    When we don’t recycle our old phones and electronic waste (e-waste) properly, it can end up in landfills. Almost all of our old electronics end up in places like these due to poor regulation, law and people not knowing about how to properly get rid of their old device. If they do end up in landfills, the materials and leak into the ground water sources. But if you do have an iPhone that you want to get rid of, instead of just throwing it away, Apple has a system for recycling old iPhones on their website. Here is the link.

    3. Safety: 

    Though the use of these illegal mines run by armed military groups in the Congo in decreasing, there are still some left operating under the law’s radar. By creating a demand for these materials, the people that are working in illegal mines are forced to work long hours in abysmal conditions, which is very unsafe. Also, the military groups who run the mines have horrible punishments.

    4. Government: 

    The problems connected the use of conflict minerals has lead the American government to create new laws such as the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act. These laws are pushing the US based electronic companies to prove that they are moving towards not using conflict minerals and at the very least regulating their use of them.

    5. Economy: 

    Since U.S regulations of conflict mineral use have been put into action, the armed military groups controlling the mines in the Congo have reduced or disappeared significantly because of less demand from their mines.

    What Can You Do To Stay Away From Conflict Materials?

    To stay away from funding the armed groups in the Congo, we can purchase, raise awareness, donate, talking to companies and finding alternatives for and to companies that don’t source elements like tin, tungsten and tantalum from those mines.

    1. Purchasing: To help stop the use of conflict minerals, we should move away from buying electronics from companies that use conflict mines. Instead, we should buy from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Acer, Intel and HP. These companies are making good progress on going fully conflict-free.

    2. Raising Awareness: By raising awareness about the cause of military controlled mines in the Congo, more and more people will want to help in any way they can. You can do this by making flyers to put around the school, asking your IT department about what they think about conflict minerals and in general telling people about the cause.

    3. Donating: If you can’t raise awareness or purchasing from a different buyer, donating money to a campaign that already exists is a great option! Though there are many sites that you could donate to, the people behind the ‘Enough Project’ seem to be very passionate about the cause. If you do donate to this fund, the money will be going to helping the children get out of those mines and improving their lifestyle.

    4. Emailing Companies: Though many companies are going conflict free, there are still some that haven’t. If you want to change those companies, you could send them polite emails asking them things like ‘Where do you source your gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten for your products?’. The more people that send emails like these, the more the company will think about going conflict free.

    5. Finding Alternatives: A reason some companies use these conflict minerals is because they do something very well that serves a purpose in technology. You might want to do some research on alternative materials to these expensive materials. If you do find some options, ask a science teacher at your school about how to make the material, then if you have time, try it!

    Citations

    Apple. “IPhone 6s 32GB スペースグレイ.” Apple(日本). Apple Inc., 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

    Desjardins, Jeff. “The Extraordinary Raw Materials in an IPhone 6s.” Visual Capitalist. N.p., 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

    www.bbc/news/world-africa-27782829

    Apple. “Apple – Specialized Disclosure Report.” Apple – Specialized Disclosure Report. Apple USA, 29 May 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

    @medwechuk. “IWaste: The IPhone Environmental Impact – Orchard | Blog.” Orchard | Blog. N.p., 06 May 2016. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

    By Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast | Nov 10, 2009. “From Mine to Mobile Phone: The Conflict Minerals Supply Chain | Enough Project.” Enough. Sasha and John, 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

    Business and Human Right Centre. “Implementation of US Dodd-Frank Act Rule on Conflict Minerals: Commentaries, Guidance, Company Actions | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.” Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Business and Human Rights Centre, 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

    ThinkProgress. “9 Things You Need To Know About Conflict Minerals.” ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 04 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

    Enough Project. “Conflict Minerals Company Rankings | RAISE Hope for Congo.” Conflict Minerals Company Rankings | RAISE Hope for Congo. Enough Project, 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

     

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