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Blood Diamonds - Blood Cellphones?

Most of us have heard of blood, or conflict diamonds. The Kimberly Process made great strides in certifying conflict-free diamonds, and eliminating blood diamonds. But did you know there are other conflict minerals? I didn't. When I researched conflict diamonds for Exit Strategy, I found a wealth of material. But nothing on coltan, which is used to create tantalum. Tantalum capacitors are used in our cell phones, computers and many other electronics.

Eighty percent of the world's coltan comes from Africa, mostly from Congo. It is probably the richest country on earth in terms of mineral wealth. So why do most of its people live in terrible poverty?  Dismemberment, rape, murder and wide-scale corruption are everyday occurences. The vast mineral riches fuel civil war, and enrich a few at the expense of many.

Does the maker of your cell phone or computer have a anti-conflict minerals policy? You probably won't be able to find out, at least not yet. Some legislation is in the works in the U.S. and Canada, and likely other countries as well.  Should there be a policy, or is that over-regulation? There are arguments on both sides. Manufacturers feel it is impossible to track and certify the origin of their suppliers' materials. The opposing argument is that by fueling the demand for these products, we as consumers are complicit.
The issue is much more complex than what I've mentioned here, but isn't it something we should all find out more about? As consumers, we create demand for these consumer products, so we are also somewhat responsible for the issues and behaviours that result. Each of us can make a difference, albeit small. Even if we can't change the world on our own.

On second thought, maybe we can.