Mining for Mobiles: Where do materials for our school’s technology come from?

Tin is a metal which has atomic number of 50, and atomic mass of 118.71. It is easy to bend, and it is used in technological industry as soldering component(fixes things in place).

It comes from many different countries, the top 5 being: Mozambique, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Because DRC is the top third producer of this metal, it earns quite a lot of money, most of which go supporting the warfare, which according to Marcus Bleadale, is due to the government’s weak control, and military self-interest. Due to active use of child labor there, this makes for a governmental, economical, and ethical issues.

Gold is also a metal, which has an atomic number of 79, and atomic mass of 199.967. Gold is used for covering copper wires, because:

  • It doesn’t oxidize(turn green on air)
  • Non-toxic(don’t worry if you swallowed a phone, it’s not poisonous)
  • It conducts electricity well(just like copper)
  • It takes a tiny amount of gold to cover something(like copper wires, so they won’t oxidize)

It is mined a lot around the world, in countries like China, Australia, US, Russia, South Africa, etc. Although DRC mines only 0.13% compared to the rest of the world, this country dishes out insane amounts of money(167,750,000), more than a half of which goes to support the warfare around. The factors there, which are same as above(poor government control, military self-interest, child labor) are a sure sign of an ethical, governmental, and economical issues.

In order to solve the problem, there are three solutions(one is purely theoretical). The first one, is to use technology of Fairphone company, which uses materials from higher-paid, and more ethical mines. It can also be assembled and reassembled all over again, which means that there’s no tin at all to fix the parts to their places. The catch is that the Fairphone company is just starting out with its technology, and it can’t be shipped outside Europe. Yet…

Another solution is to send broken technology to Apple, to be more precise to its robot Liam, which dissembles components of Apple technology, so that they can be used over and over again.

But in order to let Apple to get right into ethical business, so that they can use more ethical mining sources, and recycle existing products. This is the most practical, and likely solution for the problem.