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Abundance & Ignorance, American Dilemma, MMM 1-24-2011


Monday Morning Message, January 24, 2011

As we go thru a normal day, it is not unusual to see a lot of people who are constantly using their cell phones, droids, and smart phones.  Every one of these little devices contains a mineral commonly referred to as Coltan.  Wikipedia defines this substance that is part of almost every electronic device as:

"Coltan is used primarily for the production of tantalum capacitors, used in many electronic devices."

While we demand more and more technical devices that can make our lifestyles advance, many women, children and peasants will die and be abused by militias in Eastern Congo to dig this mineral out of the most disgusting mines known to man. 
Although official estimates show that less than 5% of this substance comes from the Congo, many believe that as much as 80% of illegal world supplies since the mid 1990’s have emanated from these mines.  Even if it is only half of that amount, the fact is that this mineral has been at the center of the Wars in Rwanda and Congo resulting in over 5,000,000 deaths. 

Just between my wife and myself, I can count at least nine cell phones and five computers we have owned in the last twenty years.  I wonder how many people were tortured to produce the Coltan to make my communication and electronic devices.  How about you?  How about the companies that produce all of these devices?

Like the people who steal items out of your house and must find a way to fence them to turn them into cash, the corporate world can work in a similar fashion at times.  Some companies are willing and able to go in and do the “dirty work” by having other mining operations that give them cover to also extort the Coltan and then sell it on the world markets.  “Legitimate” companies produce and sell these electronic gizmos as if they are unaware of how this component was obtained.  Do they have any responsibility to ask how these minerals were produced?  Do we have responsibility to ask the same questions? 
According to several watchdog groups, some of the companies that have been cited for violations of international treaties by dealing in Coltan from questionable sources in the Congo are:

 Cabot,[21] Eagle Wings Resources International[22] George Forrest Group[23] and OM Group.[24]

When Apple, Blackberry, Motorola, and all the manufacturers of cell phones keep bringing us new gadgets, hopefully the shareholders will be asking the important questions about how they have acquired the items of production for their products.  As you place your cell phone to your ear this week, think about where the individual pieces and parts came from and the people who produced them.  You might make a connection that most people will never care about! Is it too much to expect Sanctity of Life might prevail in corporate boardrooms above easy profits?

I Corinthians 15:33-34(RSV) “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.  Come to your right mind, and sin no more.  For some have no knowledge of God, I say this to your shame.”