Cell Phones and Conflict-Free Minerals


"Are genuinely conflict-free smart phones possible?"

GoMo News, Tony Dennis

tantalumIt's not every day that you get to converse with a real life poet but they do have a nasty habit of asking really searching questions. And Fran Lock was no exception when she asked GoMo News whether or not it was possible to purchase a smart phone that was genuinely conflict (materials) free (CF). It's over a year since Nicolas Kristof wrote his column about 'blood phones,' and we don't appear to have made much progress in this direction. Given that all the leading producers of smart phones have been singled out by those campaigning against the use of components in electronic devices (including smart phones), it raises the question—should handset vendors be treating this whole issue more seriously? In a nutshell, pressure groups are opposed to the use of components made from minerals purchased from war zones (conflict areas), such as the Congo.

tantalum capacitorIt's pretty heavy-duty stuff because the Congo is a key supplier of tantalum, which is used to make electrical capacitors in mobile phones. It's the sale of ores like tantalum that funds the combatants in the Congo.

The alternative would be to use tantalum from Australia and so the protestors want manufacturers of electronic goods to check their supply chains and ethically source their components.

In the list of key companies by the Center for American Progress virtually all of the key smartphone makers appear.

Apple, Dell, HP, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic (Matsushita), RIM, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Ericsson and more.

Only HTC and Google have seemed to escape their wrath.

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