DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, 2019

Workers in an open-pit coltan mine near the town of Rubaya

Ratner

© Reuters / Baz Ratner

 

The truth is that our technology is tainted with blood. The truth is that our ability to make phone calls, be permanently connected and always have the latest news at our fingertips relies on the inhuman, daily toil of countless men and women, often very young, often even children, who spend their entire lives digging for minerals that are essential to the production of those devices that have become a fundamental part of our routine.
Among the materials needed to operate almost all technological devices is coltan, a mixture of two minerals, columbite and tantalite, 80% of the world’s reserves of which are found below ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here, in international silence and with the tacit endorsement of the electronics giants, millions of people live in de facto slavery, forced to dig in muddy mines, often consisting of tunnels running tens of metres underground. The lives of these people depend on the amount of coltan they can extract from the mines. Often miners have to continue digging without being paid until they find a reserve and they are always cheated of their hard work, as they are left with only the crumbs of the sky-high profits generated by this mineral.
Behind these young people, guilty only of being born in the wrong place, there is a whole chain of abuses: from mine owners and local government officials to international trade controllers and producers, who often do not bother to verify the sustainability of the supply chain.
We consumers, however, can go further than just indignation. It is our duty to try to reorient the market by demanding traceability of supply chains and rewarding virtuous companies with our money. Through our choices, we can cleanse our technology of blood.

Sofia Belardinelli