I speculated recently about the amount of lithium recently found in Afghanistan - like oil in Iraq - could become the number one resource for the war to continue in that country. In a post, titled, "The Smartphone Wars Seek Trillion Dollar Spoils," I believe that mobile phone manufacturers will compete heavily to secure this resource. In the Congo, a similar scenario has already played out with 'conflict minerals' with more dire consequences.
Conflict Minerals like 'blood diamonds' are minerals mined in the Congo which provide revenue to rebel groups committing unspeakable atrocities. In a CNN Report, it was noted that the Congo holds the devastating distinction of being home to the deadliest war since World War II - where more than 5.4 million people have been killed over the course of the last 15 years.
The groups, fighting each other primarily in the eastern part of the country, make $180 million off of tantalum (which stores electricity in cell phones), tungsten (creates vibrations in cell phones), tin (for circuit boards) and gold, which is used to coat wiring.
This YouTube video posted on June 25 has tallied 67,000+ views already and with "Raise Hope for Congo" talks about fueling the deadliest war in the world - while urging the top makers of cell phones, digital cameras and other electronics to take heed. As a parody and criticism of Apple's famous "I'm a PC" commercial, this short video offers more insight into this critical issue.
Fortunately, the U.S. financial overhaul bill signed last week by the House and Senate includes a provision pertaining to the use of conflict minerals by the makers of electronics. The Dodd-Frank bill will require companies to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission the nature and origin of some of the materials they use in creating their products.
Reacting to the news the activist group "Enough's" John Prendergast said, "A year ago most members of Congress hadn't even heard of conflict minerals … (now) we demand conflict-free products and we expect our legislators to do all they can to ensure that." This video shows how it played out in committee.
Thanks to Senators Dodd and Frank and their dedication to this human rights issue, the Congo's 'conflict minerals' language will be included in this financial reform bill.
One has only to compare this horrific unfolding of events in the Congo to see how this could relate to a similar problem emerging in Afghanistan. With conflict minerals so fresh on our minds, it would be wise for the American government to consider controlling the mining of lithium and other precious minerals in that country, so that a similar occurrence doesn't aggravate this already non-ending war. Otherwise, unattended to, we might be learning in short order that the Taliban is securing this wealth to expand upon their military arsenals.
Lithium in Afghanistan
UPDATE: Wired - June 28- In an e-mail to Steve Jobs on Sunday evening, Wired.com reader Derick Rhodes inquired about whether Apple was using “conflict-free” materials to create the iPhone 4. Jobs shot back a reply an hour later stating that Apple was doing what it could.