Why Your Smartphone Is Ruining The Congo

Written by Ann Brown

From Quartz

Your iPhone is, first and foremost, a phone. It is also an Internet browser, a personal calendar, a memo pad, an MP3 player, a gaming console, a weather forecaster, and much more. But, on top of all that, your iPhone is a symbol—of affluence, of style, of comfort and convenience; a symbol of belonging to the world of Visa cards and Starbucks macchiatos and JetBlue tickets. It is a membership token for the First World.

Which is odd, considering how it’s made. Smartphone capacitors require tantalum, an element that is derived from a metal ore called coltan. And coltan is hard to come by. In fact, up to 30 percent of it is endemic to a single country: the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo (the DRC), in Central Africa.


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