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MD Blog > Conflict minerals: the bloody Pandora’s Box…
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Conflict minerals: the bloody Pandora’s Box…

I usually don’t wear jewelry. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but they are definitely not mine. So when I heard about blood diamonds years ago, it didn’t come as a big disillusion. In 2007 I posted about Hotel Rwanda, Syriana, Blood Diamond… Not only entertainment. These films are informative movies the general public needs, and even if they have not been major box-office hits, they engage their audience and have an emotional impact on viewers. At least for a while. I know women who re-considered purchasing diamonds after they saw Edward Zwick’s ‘Blood Diamond’; it didn’t last long though, until Leo Di Caprio’s charm faded away. But at least, people who have seen the movie can’t ignore blood diamonds anymore.

Unfortunately and despite international laws, the Kimberley Process and the World Diamond Council, we are not finished with blood diamonds: according to Human Right Watch, ‘In late June 2009, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting the serious human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields by the Zimbabwean military, including forced labor, child labor, the killing of more than 200 people, and other grave abuses.’ And just a few weeks ago, in an article published on the Wall Street Journal: ‘In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Linda Moisés da Rosa, 55 years old, denounced the killings of her two sons, both diamond miners. In September, she said, Angolan soldiers descended on a large mine near here to chase away diggers. When some refused to leave, she said, the soldiers caved in the mine, burying alive around 45 men, including her son Pereira Eduardo Antonio, 21. “These kids were stubborn,” she said, adding that the soldiers said that the killings “should serve as a lesson to anyone who wants to come dig here again.

The blood diamonds don’t resurface, they have never faded away so Nick Kristof is half right when he says in ‘Death by Gadget’ published on the New York Times: ‘Blood diamonds have faded away, but we may now be carrying blood phones’. Read Global Witness report: Return of the Blood Diamond and IRIN news: The blood diamond is making a comeback to get the big picture.

Diamonds are not common goods, this is why the populace doesn’t feel concerned by blood diamonds. But when it comes to your new iPhone or your laptop, you will instantly feel much more concerned. Enough Project video ‘I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret’ has gone viral and has had over 440 000 views in less than a week. One minute and forty-five seconds will be enough to convince you this is not acceptable. You certainly don’t want to support brutal wars, rapes and killings in Africa by buying the hi-tech products you like. I sent the video to some geek friends, desperately waiting for their iPhone 4. One of them decided not to buy the new iPhone and he even said that starting from now, he will be more committed into the conflict minerals cause. On the Internet, you can read more and more articles about conflict minerals: ‘Your iPhone Can Stop a Real Life War’ is a great example of the growing awareness on the issue. The author of the post even says: ‘Did you know that you can use your iPhone or any other computing device, to stop a real life war? And that too, in just 30 seconds?’. Is it that simple?

Reading Nick Kristof‘s article ‘Death by Gadget’, the result may be a little bit more nuanced: ‘It’s not that American tech companies are responsible for the slaughter, or that eliminating conflict minerals from Americans’ phones will immediately end the war. Even the Enough Project, an anti-genocide organization that has been a leading force in the current campaign, estimates that only one-fifth of the world’s tantalum comes from Congo.‘ The Enough Project organization, journalists, activists and the grassroots movement pressuring electronics manufacturers to use conflict free minerals have finally gotten the issue out to the masses and it is great to see the ‘enthusiasm’ of people for the Raise Hope for Congo campaign I have been supporting for a long time, as well as on the Sama Gazette. Recent posts published by Nick Kristof, on the Huffington Post and of course on the Enough Project websitehave got significant views, shares and retweets. Steve Jobs even responded about Apple using conflict minerals, and so did the Enough Project.

A few days ago, Frederick Clarkson tweeted: ‘Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign to end the use of blood minerals from Congo’. It was following the news: Congress tackles conflict minerals via financial reform bill. This tweet is saying exactly what I think about the campaign to end the use of blood minerals from Congo: we are not done yet. And because we experienced it so many times, the blood diamonds resurfacing being a good example, I really hope it is not some kind of a fad, a popular consciousness that will lose its popularity quickly. When I wrote about News cycle turnover, our today’s worst enemy?, I really meant it: news cycle turnover rules our entire world. Television, newspapers and the Internet offer abundance of information, every day is different and it is like we are force-feed like geese, until we get nauseous and overwhelmed by events. Our attention can’t be everywhere, all the time.

Last week was a landmark week for the campaign but everyone still has to increase pressure on electronics manufacturers to stop using minerals bought from mines under the control of militia groups, fueling wars for more than a decade in Congo but also in neighboring countries. It is a long-winded process and even if in the best-case scenario, we can audit the supply chains to determine whether minerals are clean or bloody, there is a chance we will face the same problems we are still facing today with blood diamonds. We know money laundering but there is also blood diamonds laundering and soon to be (if not already) conflict minerals laundering. It is important people are aware and stay mobilized, the campaign reaches its peak and the process to set a global standard for minerals supply has been set in motion, but we shouldn’t celebrate just yet; we won a battle, not the war.

The United States may support the Conflict Minerals Trade Act (the amendment is waiting for a vote in the financial reform bill), but what if Europe and the other countries don’t support it? Enough Project video ‘I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret’is educational but what when other bad news will come? Will conflict minerals stay on the front page? Let’s just keep mobilized for now, tomorrow is another day.

Remember my female friends, swearing they would never buy a diamond ring because they were afraid it could be a bloody one? Well, two of them got married and they were very proud to show their beautiful diamond engagement ring to everyone. Forget Leo. My geek friends? I doubt they will stop using their smartphone or laptop, just like I won’t stop either even though I don’t buy as many gadgets as I used too. Many suggest a label for diamonds and minerals from a conflict-free origin, just like we already have labels for sustainable agriculture, forestry, tourism and eco-labels. But most of all we need government support, electronics industry involvement, international mineral monitoring, auditing and tracing, and consumer awareness. Sanctions are also a key component against the trade of conflicts minerals. Let’s hope a global solution will be found, because recent experiences tell us The power of carrot and stick can be ‘reductio ad absurdum’

Note: Comments for this post are open on the Sama Gazette Website.

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