Thursday, 17 October 2013

Mobile Phone Recycling Cuts Use of Conflict Minerals

Did you know that your mobile phone contains a number of conflict minerals, whose mining is used to fund violent conflicts in Africa? This could be one more reason to motivate you to take your old mobile, or any other electronic device, to your nearest recycling point.

Conflict minerals are called this because their mining, which typically involves human rights abuse and child labour, are used to finance bloody conflicts; the biggest instance of which is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The US Dodd-Frank Act lists among conflict minerals: wolframite (tungsten ore), columbite-tantalite (tantalum ore), gold, and cassiterite (tin ore). These are all used in electronic devices: gold is used to coat the internal wires of the device, tantalum is used in the batteries to ensure they hold their charge after they are disconnected from the socket, and tin is what circuit boards are mostly made of. Tungsten is used for the vibration function of mobile phones.

In the Congo, these are mined illegally by local militia groups, and the proceeds from their black market sale go towards funding the ongoing civil war. The other countries where conflict minerals are mined include South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, and the Central African Republic. In all of them, mining of the metals is used to fuel regional conflicts.

Since recycling technology is advanced enough to make a significant portion of electronic device contents reusable, it is one of the ways that we can contribute to reducing the mining of conflict minerals. The US has legislated against the use of conflict minerals in the Dodd-Frank Act, and the UK has put in place guidelines for companies trading in conflict minerals. There is a global move to put a stop to the criminal use of these minerals, and recycling is a significant part of it.

For more information on mobile phone recycling please visit the FoneHub website 

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