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(CNN)   Old and busted: Blood Diamonds. New hotness: Blood Phones   ( divider line
    More: Asinine, blood diamonds, International Rescue Committee, Democratic Republic, conflict minerals, Enough Project, ongoing political conflicts  
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6235 clicks; posted to Main » on 16 Aug 2012 at 3:06 PM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2012-08-16 05:03:54 PM  
2 votes:
Tantalum is a commodity. if one buyer does not buy it, someone else will. In theory, if enough big manufacturers signed up to the "non-blood", it would reduce the price of Congo's product only slightly. The other users of tanalum will just pick up what signatory consumers turned down.

The whole picture of Congo blood-minerals is wildly distorted from objective fact. Well, first off, let me acknowledge that YES, millions of people have been killed in the Congo, people are enslaved in mining operations, and the mined coltan ore (tantalum-niobium ore) gets sold. It does not get "sold" in the Congo, they have no commodity market. It's carried over the border to a country which DOES have a commodity market and pays market value. These neighboring countries have overlapping geology and AFAIK Congolese coltan ore is not even distinguishable from "local" ore, and they of course have a market mining their own ores.

The lore surrounding Congolese coltan suggests that it's some sort of indispensable, single-source "Unobtanium" people will kill for. It's not:
Congo only sources a small % of world tantalum, but it did spike to 13% in 2009.

Second note is that tantalum is not "essential and indispensable" for cellphones, nor exclusive to cellphones.
Tantalum in almost all electronics is the "tantalum capacitor". These produce higher capacitance densities than traditional bulky electrolytic caps. However, the trend for the past 5+ years has been towards MLCC ceramic caps which are more reliable and have better leakage, thermal, and ESR specs, and are freakin' tiny. MLCC isn't commonly manufactured in a high capacitance range, but modern electronics have shrunk and gone to higher frequencies and don't NEED the 100uF range you use tantalum for and the designs more often call for MLCC as an objective design decision.

The tantalum capacitor is by no means "obsolete", but it's not very widely used anymore. I Googled images of the iPhone boards. The iPhone 3 showed what looks like one- ONE- tantalum cap, which is going to be a few milligrams of tantalum. The iPhone 4 shows NONE that I can find. I think you'll find them more often in devices with looser design methods and less compact designs, like cheap LCD TVs. I've seen plenty but haven't tried to graph it versus the date it was designed on. But its relevance is generally decreasing in all electronics. I do electronics design. I have a few hundred tantalum caps around. They cost anywhere from $0.06 to maybe a dollar for an extremely large or high-spec type (which doesn't use more tantalum so much as more expensive mfg methods). They're nothing special. The basic value of tantalum in all the phones of everyone you know is probably under $1.

The world market does use a lot of tantalum, not all of it for capacitors, little-to-none goes into "smartphones", and the ore price is very "high" per kg. That price does fluctuate wildly. In general it doesn't make sense to gauge a commodity's value in value-density though, rather, you'd gauge it by total volume of $ in production/consumption. The $price per kg is relevant for smuggling as selling off a million $ in coltan vs a million $ in coal is more practical.
2012-08-16 03:17:09 PM  
2 votes:
Don't care. May sound harsh, but I'm an American citizen, I am held to U.S. law, and I follow most of those laws. I am not going to feel bad because I use products that were manufactured in a nation who's laws allow for sweatshops from materials mind in nations that allow for slavery. It's arrogant to look at these countries and tell them that our way of life is the only one that should be followed.
2012-08-16 06:07:57 PM  
1 vote:
Don't know that I care. I fail to see how any boycotting has made any difference in Africa at all.
For the last 20 years I have seen the same "help the hungry", the same "war in Africa" and the same "don't buy X" ads on TV.
Nothing has changed. We cant change it and honestly I don't know that its our place to change it.
We are 16 trillion dollars in debt. Lets take care of our own at this point and stop throwing money at a lost cause.
I will continue to enjoy my cheap electronics guilt free.
2012-08-16 05:11:01 PM  
1 vote:

vudukungfu: ZoeNekros: notsureifserious.jpg

I can live with out an I-Phone, assholes.

This has nothing to do with iPhones specifically, or even phones at all.

Virtually all modern electronics (including whatever you're using to connect to the internet and announce your idiocy) use components that depend on these minerals.
2012-08-16 03:55:40 PM  
1 vote:
No one cares. Not really anyway. Not enough to make any effort beyond decrying it on the internet or making some trivial donation to a charity. Why do you think we have fresh food delivered to our neighborhoods every single day? Why do we have fabulous consumer electronics that are affordable to the average joe? Why can we buy clothing for only a couple hour's wages? Why can we work 40 hours a week and have 2 weeks' vacation and 7 paid holidays and still have all the rest of it? Some people have to live in shiat and spend their entire lives slaving under harsh conditions so we can have our lifestyle.
2012-08-16 03:27:44 PM  
1 vote:
It's funny how some people get so worked up and excited about being against blood diamonds and then don't give a shiat about conflict minerals in other products. It's really easy to say, "I am NEVER buying another diamond again because morals," because honestly, who buys diamonds that often? Apparently when you actually have to give something up for your principles, it becomes much harder to do.
2012-08-16 03:16:38 PM  
1 vote:
I don't know what is wrong with me, but I just don't care anymore. Sucks to be them I guess.
2012-08-16 03:09:35 PM  
1 vote:
Pffft. Things don't come from somewhere. They all just appear magically at Wal-Mart.
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