Or Samsung, Apple… you get the idea.
Blood in The Mobile is a documentary by Danish filmmaker Frank Poulsen, which pulls back the curtain on the electronics industry’s dirty little secret — indirectly financing child labour and war through their dependence on conflict minerals in the “Democratic” Republic of Congo.
Tin, tantalum and tungsten join gold as yet another natural resource prized by the developed world and problematic for Africans, to say the very least. Regional instability and corruption in the highest levels of national politics certainly don’t help matters much.
The film has a few problems of its own. Given the scope of an industry-wide problem it’s understandable that the film would choose to focus on one manufacturer (Nokia); but given that the story begins with Poulsen and crew at Mobile World Congress — an industry trade show — there was a missed opportunity here in not pressing other manufacturers for at least an informal statement on the issue.
I wonder too why China’s African presence was never brought up. In my own travels to the continent it seems to me that China sees Africa as a business partner whereas the west looks upon it as a charity case — at least publicly. But I’m certainly no authority on the subject, and it may well be that Congo is so volatile that Chinese companies do their business at arm’s length, just like Nokia and their ilk.
However, Blood In The Mobile is absolutely worth seeing for the simple fact that the crew gain access to the infamous mine at Bisie — and more incredibly, goes deep into a mineshaft to reveal what workers endure there. Words honestly can’t describe it; all I can say is that I’m not exactly well-rested after watching the film last night.
So what can we do about this?
The film’s companion website has a list of charitable organizations that you can donate to. Fans of Apple’s locked-down iAppliances can sign this petition. And you can always vote with your wallet — this table ranks phone manufacturers on their ethical practices, though the scores are hardly encouraging.
But before anything else I urge you to see the film for yourself, then encourage others to do the same. Once you’ve witnessed the horrific conditions in which these precious minerals are extracted you’ll not soon forget.