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Conflict Minerals

Why is it so important to mine conflict minerals when many people can die from working?  Conflict minerals are minerals that are mined by people who work so much in dangerous conditions just to get paid a little. The minerals used are tin, tungsten, tantalum, gold, cobalt, aluminum, etc. Those minerals come from mines in Congo (DRC), and it is used in electronic devices such as iPhones and computers. The minerals are used to make phone plastics, the battery, microchips, coat wires, and used as a soldering agent. The minerals are so useful because for example, tantalum has high capacitance in a small volume, which makes it great for phones because it would not make the phone big. Gold is another great example of why it’s so useful. Gold is very useful because it’s ideal for coating electrical  components because it conducts well and doesn’t corrode. But to get these minerals miners need to work in harsh conditions. Hence, safety of the miners should be more recognized.

Harsh working conditions of miners include not only the lack of protective gear but also child slavery and threats of the arm dealers who are in charge of the mines. According to UNICEF, for a shift up to 24 hours underground, you can only earn around $2, and many don’t even get $2. Around 40,000 children work in mines in DRC, even children as young as 7. Children who are usually working in mines are orphans, or are very poor who needs to work to live, even if it’s only getting $2. Working in mines with no protective clothing for a long time can result to health problems, and also since the mines aren’t very organized, people sometimes get buried alive when it collapses. But the harsh conditions also include the threats from arm dealers who buys weapons when they get money from the minerals, so they could stay in charge and make people work. If they used money wisely, DRC would probably be very rich because of all those minerals, but since companies demand minerals all the time, the arm dealers need people to work for them to be able to keep producing minerals. Therefore, child slavery and the threats could be mediated by increasing the overall product life of phones and computers.

As a school to help mediate the issue, we could learn more about our electronic devices and increase product life. If we learn more about our devices we use at school, we could probably use it more carefully, so we do not need to change our computers as often as we think we need to, and use it longer, which could help. We could use keyboard covers to protect our computer from getting dust, food crumbs, or some kind of liquid in the computer, which would increase the overall product life. Also we could get laptop covers, so that it would protect our laptop better, and have a better chance of surviving a drop if we drop it accidentally. Even if we don’t buy special protection for our laptops, if we all have days where we learn more just about technology, it could help because when you think it’s time to change a laptop when it’s not we would know and we wouldn’t change it. So from now on, we could learn more about our electronic devices and help mediate the problem in Congo.


Merchant, Brian. “Were the Raw Materials in Your IPhone Mined by Children in Inhumane Conditions?” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 23 July 2017, www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-merchant-iphone-supplychain-20170723-story.html.

“Mining & IPhone Recycling.” Metallurgist & Mineral Processing Engineer, www.911metallurgist.com/mining-iphones/.

“Periodic Table – Royal Society of Chemistry.” Royal Society of Chemistry – Advancing Excellence in the Chemical Sciences, www.rsc.org/periodic-table.

ENOUGHproject. “Conflict Minerals 101.” YouTube, YouTube, 18 Nov. 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF-sJgcoY20&feature=youtu.be.

Kelly, Annie. “Children as Young as Seven Mining Cobalt Used in Smartphones, Says Amnesty.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Jan. 2016, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/jan/19/children-as-young-as-seven-mining-cobalt-for-use-in-smartphones-says-amnesty.

(www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. “Child Labor Still Rife in Democratic Republic of Congo | Africa | DW | 11.06.2017.” DW.COM, www.dw.com/en/child-labor-still-rife-in-democratic-republic-of-congo/a-39194724.

“How Long Should You Keep Your Computer?” Bruceb News, www.brucebnews.com/2016/04/how-long-should-you-keep-your-computer/.

Nick L.   Posted in Hardware. “Should You Buy A Keyboard Protector For Your MacBook?” MacInfo, 9 Jan. 2017, macinfo.us/should-you-buy-a-keyboard-protector-for-your-macbook.

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