BloodPhone for Life!!

Exactly whose LIFE is being exchanged for the PHONE?

Since the 1980’s diamonds were often used as fuel for civil war in some West
and Central African Counties. In late 1990’s and early 2000’s this link “came to light”
and there has been a movement, which has called for the halt of the sale of ‘conflict-
diamonds, also known as blood-diamonds. The ban was a “humanitarian” response to
the marketing of diamonds from war torn countries such as Angola, Liberia and Sierra
Leone. The airways were full of images of the children carrying military assault rifles,
children with hands cutoff for refusing to fight or mine for “warlords” and stories of
women being raped and innocent ‘civilians’ being murdered or displaced. For example,
“In Sierra Leone 20,000 people were mutilated and millions fled the country [and]
According to National Geographic News blood diamonds are responsible for 4 million
deaths.” 1

Were all diamonds blood diamonds? No however, in the 1980s it was “estimated …19% was specifically conflict in nature…and The World Diamond Council reported that by 2004 this percentage had fallen to approximately 1%” 2 The aforementioned movement which served to bring this issue into the light has to some degree assisted in restoring some sense of “normalcy” to some affected areas. It even included the 2006 feature film entitled Blood Diamonds which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou.

However flying completely ‘under the radar’ and a cloak of dark silence is
another major conflict, producing conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC). This conflict is not centered around a niche market with sexy appeal like
diamonds. It is not an easy mineral to target, like diamonds and unlike diamonds it is
fair to say everyone in the US and the majority of people world wide directly are
supporting this conflict and most have probably never even heard of one of the major
minerals fueling the struggle. The major mineral (though not the only one) is called
coltan, which a prime ingredient used to manufacture capacitors in micro-processing
devices like computer, tablets and cell phones. “According to official figures, the country
produces only 1% of the world’s coltan, the country’s most profitable export, but the
actual share of global coltan output may be much higher. DR Congo possesses some 80% of the world’s coltan ore reserves.” 3

DRC has been embroiled in this wave of conflict since the 1990’s fueled by the
increase need for micro-processing as computers and computing have increasingly
become move integrated into society and has exploded with the proliferation of the
internet, wifi and mobile phones. In addition to Coltan, other minerals required for these
technologies to operate are colbalt, gold and tin. The dominate two minerals coming
from the DRC are Coltan and Cobalt even though it “produces significant quantities of
diamonds, gold, cassiterite, copper, … oil, tin, zinc, gold and coffee. The country has
large reserves of uranium: it was Congolese uranium used for the Manhattan Project that produced the world’s first atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The vast country also
has more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s timber stocks.” 4  And with and estimated 24 Trillion dollars in untapped mineral wealth, without a major shift in consumer awareness and demand, the conflicts around these minerals will continue.

What kind of public out cry would you expect if four Boeing 747’s crashed everyday killing everyone on board, approximately 1,500 people, 50% of whom were children? Would we allow this pattern continued for 10+ years? Would it be business as usual? Would people be standing in lines overnight to make sure that they and there children can get the first seats becoming available when the store opens? ‘Of Course Not’, you scream. Wouldn’t we be refusing to board those planes until the industry and the governmental bodies, which regulate the industry fix the problem?

Unfortunately those are the numbers of deaths attributed to the conflict in the DRC for the period of 1998 – 2008. According to the 2008 article in Reliefweb, “The International Rescue Committee …said conflict [has] claimed 5.4 million lives since the beginning of the second Congo war in 1998…. …nearly half …were children….” 5 And as of 2011 “the death toll [was] surpassing that of the Holocaust [six million]” 6 . That calculates out to 45,000 people a month or 1500 per day!! “It’s possible that two children died so that you could have that mobile phone,” says Jean-Bertin, a 34-year-old Congolese activist … to exploit strategic raw materials like coltan.” [Furthermore] he adds “The West and all the others who manufacture weapons have their noses stuck in there” 7 in addition to the loss of life this conflict mineral has contributed to the war which has also led to “massive displacements of the population, and the rape of 300,000 women in the last 15 years, according to human rights organizations.” 8

According to a 2016 Amnesty International report, “Children as young as seven
mining cobalt used in smartphones” 9 The conditions in which they are forced to work are not only life threatening from a health perspective, but they are also beaten, intimidated, forced to work 12 hours often in extreme heat, carry heavy bags and made to pay fines at the whims of ‘security guards’, while earning as little as a dollar a day.

As we sit here in 2019 and nothing has been done to fix the problem, the death toll could be approaching 10 million people nearly 5 million of whom are children!!! Are African Lives really that insignificant? Admittedly, this is a huge problem and you are probably thinking ‘what can I do to help?

Before I share my response to that question, let me try to make this a more personal issue as it relates to the Bloodphone (and related technologies) in your pocket.

Issues Of Concern with Radio Frequencies used by cell phones, wifi, and other wireless devices.

  1. According to Dane Snowden, who was a vice president of CTIA (2005 -11),
    represents the members of the United States wireless communications industry,
    “Industry has not said once, once that cell phones are safe” 10
  2. Top mobile phone firms warning shareholders over device’s possible cancer risks – fail to tell but customers. Companies including Blackberry, EE, Nokia and Vodafone have told investors they could face legal action from device users if research eventually finds links between their products and cancer
  3. In 2015 the Government of France tested Cell phones against the body (eg in pants,
    bras, etc) and 9 out of 10 failed using the current safety limits. 11