Sunday, July 12, 2009

Murderous Mineral Trade

I will be presenting on the deep-material relations in consumer electronics tomorrow at the University of Arts in Berlin. Did you know that the #1 industrial consumer of electronics is the game industry? Playstations, Wiis, Iphones and all sorts of contemporary comforts and enjoyments all need cassiterite, coltan, copper. The cheapest source of these minerals is, of course, Africa. Why is it so cheap? Because that is the value of human life in institutionally impoverished countries. yet they should be among the richest countries in the world.

Jaromil at transmediale a great presentation

It is officially illegal to source conflict minerals. Congo is prohibited from building new airports near Kivu province where the trade is going on. So... the airplanes land on the highway.

What to do? Be aware, make others aware. I think Jaromil made a great point when he described the problem as endemic in the product R&D cycle. If manufacturers have a problem, say they need smaller, more heat-efficient processors, they will research only far enough to solve the problem for the time being (in this case, the solution was Coltan from Congo) instead of looking at what would come next in terms of the life cycle of the technology and in terms of the possible repercussions intensive exploitation of the newly necessary resource would have on the local people/ conditions...

What does illegal mean? It means there is a lot of money to be made on the black market. In Germany, they like to say "Kein Mensch ist illegal" I think it was Beuys who said it first "No person is illegal". This is a battle cry of the immigrants rights activists in Germany. My cynical rejoinder is here "Kein Euro ist illegal!"

UPDATE: a new article in TIME today, linking to some previous one few paid any attention to. The problem remains urgent and unsolved... there is human sacrifice inside the screen we are reading this on right now.

UPDATE: 050809 An article in the New York Times today gives a dire picture of what is still going, seemingly unabated, in Kivu provinces of Congo. We can see here how any so-called political solution only seems to exacerbate the problem, and the victims are thousands and thousands of innocents who just happen to be living in the path of mineral money juggernauts.
Last year, this situation had already been going on for a decade, but the root causes are not addressed, so it continues. typical of the complicity of our 99.9% pure sold out mass media.

UPDATE: 120809 Hillary Clinton reportedly announced today a $17 000 000 (17M$) relief fund for rape victims in the Congo.

"But a real change in the political climate is needed if things are going to change for the citizens of the eastern Congo. ... electronics manufacturers must work with governments to end the trade in illicit conflict minerals, the way the trade in Blood Diamonds from Sierra Leone was squashed through coordinate international efforts. The war in Congo, brutal though it is, is not fought for no reason. A complex array of actors with various goals and allegiances are vying for influence, control, and for power. But the fuel feeding the conflict is wealth, and much of it comes from the illicit trade in Congo's natural resources. " - Charles London

Is the "fuel feeding the conflict" wealth? meaning no wealth no conflict?...hmmm... I would imagine that the fuel feeding this conflict in pedestrian greed but the atmosphere which allows the fuel to burn brightly is a general disregard for human life, where mega-profits, and, especially the luxurious lifestyle they afford, trump local and inter-human concerns. And we can see on MTV (and all mass media is becoming MTV) that this is definitely the case. Otherwise the article hits all the right points. Hopefully more people will feel implicated and get engaged.


  1. Hi Baruch,

    coincidentally read this article yesterday...has to do with the 'origin' of the resources we don't even notice in our everyday technological living.


  2. Thanks for the link! I had no idea about Gas Station TV (they even have a website (terrible that we can't make links in comments...

    Certainly our contemporary 'reality' is beholden to such an intricate web of processes, from extraction to consumption, it would be a miracle if it didn't, at the same time involve such unbearable human sacrifice.

    Michel Serres, the French philosopher noted in "L'Incandescent" that our primal (spiritual?) need for human sacrifice continues unabated despite the fact that it is prohibited in every country on earth, we get it on the news every day.