With huge global demand for electronic gadgets especially mobile phones, the need for the minerals to build these electronic devices has sky-rocketed.
But have we really considered where and how these minerals are produced?
A report last year in Business Week uncovered how tin, a vital element in the production of our favorite gadgets, is mined under horrendous conditions for the workers.
The article brought to light an horrific story which has been ignored up to now in the headlong rush to acquire the latest mobile technology.
Not just tin, but many other component minerals are mined in Indonesia, where mining is a hazardous industry for the workers and for the environment. These minerals are called “conflict minerals” and they are gaining notoriety because of the dreadful conditions in which they are extracted.
The United States has introduced as law that all companies must begin disclosing how “conflict-free” their devices actually are by 2014. The Securities and Exchange Council (SEC) which is in charge of the program, recently came under scrutiny for taking too lax of a position for its rules governing companies. Minerals like tin, titanium, tungsten and gold have been specified in the SEC’s rules as they are critical to industrial and technological products including mobile telephones, laptop computers, aircraft, and some machinery.
Hopefully this will encourage leading tech companies to be transparent about the electronics they use. This requires the industry to track its supply chain and report how those suppliers are sourcing precious minerals from developing countries. This law was welcomed by many NGO’s, but tech companies have expressed concern at their ability to comply.
It is the responsibility of consumers to “push” the manufacturers to be transparent and to use green electronics and minerals.
The “Green My Apple campaign” in 2007 harnessed pressure from customers who urged Apple to stop using toxic elements like PVC and tin in their products, and was successful in changing the company’s practices.
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