Conflict Minerals of Eastern Congo

The following is an exerpt from a Time magazine (27 Aug 2012) article by Michael Christopher Brown:

Like many photojournalists, I’ve been shooting with my iPhone for a while.  Using a mobile phone allows me to be somewhat invisible as a professional photographer; people see me as just another person in the crowd.

Invisibility is particularly useful in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a potpourri of armed groups and governments have used conflict minerals as the latest way to help fund the warfare, atrocities and repression that have afflicted the area for more than a century.

Miners in the Eastern Congo Headed off to Work (photograph taken by Michael Christopher Brown on his iPhone)

The electronics industry is one of the main destinations for these minerals, which include maline, cassiterite and coltan.  They are used to make critical components of mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets.  So it is fitting–if ironic–that I shoot with my iPhone. . . .

I’m not advocating giving up our gadgets.  The causes of problems in Congo are far more complex.  There are industry-sponsored programs like Solutions for Hope, which works to monitor the coltan trade.  But auditing the origins of these minerals is complicated by issues of accessibility and safety.  I’d like people to pause, taking time to think about where the materials for modern technology comes from–and what lives are affected.

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