Conflict Minerals and the Game Industry: The Problem

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Conflict Minerals and the Game Industry: The Problem

Our thirst for nifty gadgets is fueling a nonstop war in the Congo.

Read Full Article

Kind of pointless. What's the alternative? Not trading just means those people either starve to death unemployed, or join some pillagers or militias. The problem isn't in the trade itself, it's in the country where it's from. And there isn't an awfull lot we can do about it from the west, short of sending in an army to impose order and build something.

The worlds secret shame. Good to see things might be improving, but it could always be faster.

This column kind of amazes me. In the six articles written, it covered just as many different subjects (while still feeling very coherent in the theme of how video games, and the industry behind them, interact with society, culture und politics). In all of them, the author seems very knowledgable on the subject. So I guess there has to be hell of a lot of research put into these.
Kudos to you, Mr. Rath!

Blablahb:
Kind of pointless. What's the alternative? Not trading just means those people either starve to death unemployed, or join some pillagers or militias. The problem isn't in the trade itself, it's in the country where it's from. And there isn't an awfull lot we can do about it from the west, short of sending in an army to impose order and build something.

I'll be addressing that in next week's column--believe me, the difficulties of policing minerals on the ground hasn't escaped my attention, and just cutting off the DRC isn't an attractive option either. However, to cover the topic in any kind of depth I had to spend about 2.5k words defining the problem, which is over twice the length of the usual column on The Escapist, thus I split it into two parts.

Thank you so much for writing this, Mr. Rath. It's nice to see an excellent piece of journalism coming from the industry, rather than fluff.

Blablahb:
Kind of pointless. What's the alternative? Not trading just means those people either starve to death unemployed, or join some pillagers or militias. The problem isn't in the trade itself, it's in the country where it's from. And there isn't an awfull lot we can do about it from the west, short of sending in an army to impose order and build something.

Which does not mean we give up. It means we need to educate the people on ways that they can resist exploitation, and empowering local NGO's (usually with money) to work with them. It's gonna be a messy business, but we can't wash our hands of the business while we still profit from them. Hopefully, next week's article will give some concrete ways we and our governments can help.

Very nice article. It's good to see that this part of the industry is being brought to light. While the media focuses on the labor conditions in sweatshops, it seldom mentions the working conditions in the mining operations you mentioned, which deserve equal, if not more, attention.

This is a little off-topic, but it does remind me of Gina Rinehart. Her 'willing to work for $2 per day' is their 'no other option but to work for $2 per day.'

Blablahb:
Kind of pointless. What's the alternative? Not trading just means those people either starve to death unemployed, or join some pillagers or militias. The problem isn't in the trade itself, it's in the country where it's from. And there isn't an awfull lot we can do about it from the west, short of sending in an army to impose order and build something.

Why is it kind of pointless? to solve a problem it must first be addressed. To ignore it will mean the problem will always remain. Don't be so cynical. If you intend to buy an electrical item research the company first at www.rankabrand.org.
If we start spending our money with more sustainable companies, others might start taking notice and start following suit.

Good article, this has been needed addressing in the gaming community for a good while now. I've mentioned the horrendous environmental policies of Nintendo on here before, but no seemed bothered. Shame really since its everyone's responsibility to tell them to book their ideas up, and we have the most powerful tool to do that with, OUR WALLETS. There seems to be a pandemic of apathy though when it comes to these issues.

For those interested in learning about the depth of colonial depravity under Belgium (which seems like such a nice, innocuous little country one would hardly suspect of such a criminal injustice) in the Congo and who aren't afraid of some heavy reading I recommend King Leopold's Ghost

Blablahb:
Kind of pointless. What's the alternative? Not trading just means those people either starve to death unemployed, or join some pillagers or militias. The problem isn't in the trade itself, it's in the country where it's from. And there isn't an awfull lot we can do about it from the west, short of sending in an army to impose order and build something.

It's not pointless at all. In a world where we're using and abusing resources and people, yet many, if not most of us, are more concerned with BF3 vs COD, collecting all the Pokemon, or what console is better than what, etc, we need to be exposed to global realities. They may seem far away now, and they may be less pleasant to think about than our frivolous hobbies and interests, but if we don't wake up sooner than later issues like these may consume every society.

People need to stand up to abuse, but before that can happen, they need to know about it.

Good article.

Actually this is a bit of a non-issue. The electronics companies and smelters have already pretty much taken care of this in a surprisingly successful example of self-regulation. Very little Congolese Tantalum enters the supply chain in the West, and the proposed legislation can do nothing about less ethical far-eastern smelters. See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/29/sec_materials/ for details.

Blablahb:
Kind of pointless. What's the alternative? Not trading just means those people either starve to death unemployed, or join some pillagers or militias. The problem isn't in the trade itself, it's in the country where it's from. And there isn't an awfull lot we can do about it from the west, short of sending in an army to impose order and build something.

I must be the only one who doesn't immediately disagree with this. Let's say we somehow eliminate these minerals from the supply chain, and the mines are now worthless to the militias... what's to stop them from taking the miners and putting them to work out in a poppy field (or whatever plant they can grow in that environment)? Actually, I'd be surprised to find out they're not already involved with the drug trade in some way or another. I don't think the minerals are the source of the conflict or the brutality, that falls on the wealth they provide.

The distinction being that if the militias can no longer exploit the people to gather minerals for their profit, they will find some other way to exploit the people. Worst case scenario is we stop buying their minerals, and the militias cannot find any other way to profit off these people... well they don't need to be alive anymore, do they? It's a terrible situation, but the demand for the minerals is not the cause of it, it's the fact that the region is controlled by thugs and warlords rather than any "civilized" government. Strike too hard at the source of their wealth (and therefore the source of their power), and it will only get worse for the people as those in charge push even harder to remain in charge.

I fail to see the issue here. What I took from the article was this: the exploitation of the Congolese people provides us with cheap minerals. Cheap minerals means cheaper electronics, which is nice. As this exploitation allows us to enjoy cheaper electronics, I must endorse it. Cheaper electronics is something that positively affects me, while the suffering of Africans is of no importance at all.

The Congo, ladies and gentlemen: viable evidence that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" don't correct bupkus.

Thank you for the timely and informative article, Mr. Rath.

KingGolem:
I fail to see the issue here. What I took from the article was this: the exploitation of the Congolese people provides us with cheap minerals. Cheap minerals means cheaper electronics, which is nice. As this exploitation allows us to enjoy cheaper electronics, I must endorse it. Cheaper electronics is something that positively affects me, while the suffering of Africans is of no importance at all.

I truly, truly hope that this is just obvious trolling. That disconnection from the world won't help you in the end. These kind of problems don't get self-contained. Out of mind, out of sight doesn't work here. Sooner or later it all comes back to you, as with environmental abuse (which is also a problem in this case). It's no so far fetched that some Congolese terrorist group may strike somewhere in your country arguing that the blind eye of people with your mentality has favored hell on earth on their families, and that you must pay.

Robert Cath, my hat to you. Yours are the most interesting articles I have ever read on a gaming site. Please, please keep up the good work.

Wow -- this is an amazing piece. It's something that, honestly, never even crossed my mind. We hear a lot about the problems surrounding diamonds, but rarely about others. And, man, when the exploitation is so invisible to us on this side of the ocean, it's so tempting to just ignore it entirely.

Thanks for putting this out there, and reminding me why I've always come to The Escapist for real gaming discussion.

I look forward to the next section, in which solutions are discussed. People have a knee jerk reaction, both to sweatshops and to exploitative blood minerals, but the sad reality is that the locals workers (and militias exploiting them) have no better choice. Closing down their best sources of income won't keep them fed.

Very well written. Reading this has left me felling numb.
Hope to see more.

shiajun:

I truly, truly hope that this is just obvious trolling. That disconnection from the world won't help you in the end. These kind of problems don't get self-contained. Out of mind, out of sight doesn't work here. Sooner or later it all comes back to you, as with environmental abuse (which is also a problem in this case). It's no so far fetched that some Congolese terrorist group may strike somewhere in your country arguing that the blind eye of people with your mentality has favored hell on earth on their families, and that you must pay.

I am always quite frustrated when people assume I am trolling. I assure you, that is my genuine stance on the issue. I can't see how it could possibly affect me. Will their mining procedures ruin the environment? Possibly. In AFRICA. I also reject the notion that the Congolese would strike at us, because that would mean they had stopped fighting each other. Nor do I believe that their problem will spread to the civilized world where we live. The problem in the Congo is that a bunch of ignorant barbarians discovered that they were rich, and set about fighting over it. We in the U.S.A. have plenty of resources of our own, but we don't have their problems. Our mining and business procedures have only become more equitable over time, not less.

KingGolem:
I am always quite frustrated when people assume I am trolling. I assure you, that is my genuine stance on the issue. I can't see how it could possibly affect me. Will their mining procedures ruin the environment? Possibly. In AFRICA. I also reject the notion that the Congolese would strike at us, because that would mean they had stopped fighting each other. Nor do I believe that their problem will spread to the civilized world where we live. The problem in the Congo is that a bunch of ignorant barbarians discovered that they were rich, and set about fighting over it. We in the U.S.A. have plenty of resources of our own, but we don't have their problems. Our mining and business procedures have only become more equitable over time, not less.

Just because an issue doesn't directly affect you doesn't mean it's a non-issue. Ignore it if you like, but at least respect the people who acknowledge it by not demeaning their efforts. Some people would actually like to make the world a better place for everyone, not just themselves.

KingGolem:

shiajun:

I truly, truly hope that this is just obvious trolling. That disconnection from the world won't help you in the end. These kind of problems don't get self-contained. Out of mind, out of sight doesn't work here. Sooner or later it all comes back to you, as with environmental abuse (which is also a problem in this case). It's no so far fetched that some Congolese terrorist group may strike somewhere in your country arguing that the blind eye of people with your mentality has favored hell on earth on their families, and that you must pay.

I am always quite frustrated when people assume I am trolling. I assure you, that is my genuine stance on the issue. I can't see how it could possibly affect me. Will their mining procedures ruin the environment? Possibly. In AFRICA. I also reject the notion that the Congolese would strike at us, because that would mean they had stopped fighting each other. Nor do I believe that their problem will spread to the civilized world where we live. The problem in the Congo is that a bunch of ignorant barbarians discovered that they were rich, and set about fighting over it. We in the U.S.A. have plenty of resources of our own, but we don't have their problems. Our mining and business procedures have only become more equitable over time, not less.

I apologize for the trolling comment. As much as you find it hard to conceive how the problem might affect you, I also find it hard to assimilate such sincere lack of empathy to widespread tragedy. I perceive your comment as "My consumer habits make people slaughter each other, subject children to slavery and favor entire populations devolve into savage exploitation. I couldn't care less as long as I get my next shiny gadget and console".

My reference to environmental issues is that they rarely stay localized. All ecological systems are interlinked. The effect may not be immediate, but it all snowballs into the complex systems we now have between society, economics and environment. Likewise, social problems that feed economic supply chains, specially one as unstable as conflict minerals, will not remain an Africa-bound for long.

The US may have a lot of resources, but evidently not all the ones it needs for its infrastructure, otherwise this conflict would not exist at all. Since mining is a global business, the US, as a player, must collaborate to make it as equitable as its internal market, otherwise it's as guilty of the genocide ocurring as those ignorant barbarians you mention.

However, I suggest we wait for part 2 of the article to see what Mr. Cath has in store. Right now I feel I'm missing too much info to have a fruitful discussion.

Apple users and wal-mart shoppers have proven child labor, poisioned by working conditions, are acceptable as long as customers can't see them.

It'd be nice if something could be done...

Here's another article and photoset of exploited workers used by the western nations
http://www.flickr.com/photos/81504640@N00/sets/72157605348907561/

shiajun:
I apologize for the trolling comment. As much as you find it hard to conceive how the problem might affect you, I also find it hard to assimilate such sincere lack of empathy to widespread tragedy. I perceive your comment as "My consumer habits make people slaughter each other, subject children to slavery and favor entire populations devolve into savage exploitation. I couldn't care less as long as I get my next shiny gadget and console".

What you've described is a pretty spot-on grasp of my position. I don't feel a single twinge of pity for the Africans, and encourage their exploitation, because I fear that stopping it would interrupt the flow of resources. It's like the great Mel Brooks once said, "Tragedy is when I cut my little finger. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole and die." It's only tragic when something bad happens to me.

shiajun:
My reference to environmental issues is that they rarely stay localized. All ecological systems are interlinked.

No, I don't believe that. True, all ecological systems are interlinked, but come on, now, they'd have to be blasting out mines with old army-surplus nukes for that to have an effect on the ecosystem all the way over here. I don't think the politics of the region could affect us, either, since they're too busy fighting each other to affect us. They are comfortably remote. Hell, the Mexican drug wars are practically next door, and they barely affect me at all.

shiajun:
The US may have a lot of resources, but evidently not all the ones it needs for its infrastructure, otherwise this conflict would not exist at all.

That's not the point. Of course we have to engage in trade for some resources, but what I was saying is that we've managed to exploit our own resources without turning America into a living hell. The Congolese can't do that, because they're ignorant barbarians. Further, why would I be concerned about being "guilty" of genocide? I just explained how their suffering does not affect me. Those minerals, do, however. We need to keep them coming.

Shadowsetzer:

Just because an issue doesn't directly affect you doesn't mean it's a non-issue. Ignore it if you like, but at least respect the people who acknowledge it by not demeaning their efforts. Some people would actually like to make the world a better place for everyone, not just themselves.

Importance is relative. Where an African is going to get his next meal is very important to him, but to me it's completely irrelevant. To me, the suffering of Africans is indeed a non-issue. I think it's a non-issue for everyone in the U.S., and if somebody brings it up, I will point out how it doesn't adversely affect us, and how it is actually beneficial. I also feel that the philosophy of helping others for its own sake is illogical. You basically make another person's problems more important than your own. Who could be more important to you than yourself?

Robert Rath:
Conflict Minerals and the Game Industry: The Problem

Our thirst for nifty gadgets is fueling a nonstop war in the Congo.

Read Full Article

Great article, really engaging! =D

So, solutions? I mean, FoxConn is a horrendous abuser of human rights but it's still around =\

KingGolem:
but to me it's completely irrelevant....

Relish in the fortune that there are those who do not think like you, and have driven forth their ideals that undoubtedly made your life as comfortable as it is now.

KingGolem:
BIG snip

So, in short, "My desired way of life gets others murdered, tortured and raped. I approve." The implications of such a philosophy are so profound and ramified that discussing them here would completely derail the article at hand.

So I won't.

I dearly hope that neither you or anyone you care about ever finds themselves on the other side of the stick you wave at the world.

KingGolem:
I am a terrible, soulless human being of no worth because I cannot comprehend other peoples suffering over the convenience of me to play with electronic toys.

Fixed that last reply for ya.

Callate:
The Congo, ladies and gentlemen: viable evidence that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" don't correct bupkus.

Thank you for the timely and informative article, Mr. Rath.

The invisible hand oddly enough, only really works in capitalist markets, not Laissez-faire systems.

Robert Rath:
Conflict Minerals and the Game Industry: The Problem

Our thirst for nifty gadgets is fueling a nonstop war in the Congo.

Excellent primer piece on the history of resource based conflict in the Congo.

shiajun:
So, in short, "My desired way of life gets others murdered, tortured and raped. I approve."

No, that's not quite correct. I don't care about the murder, torture, and rape, but I strongly approve of cheap minerals. The former is no consequence, but the latter is a great benefit.

Vizanto:

KingGolem:
I am a terrible, soulless human being of no worth because I cannot comprehend other peoples suffering over the convenience of me to play with electronic toys.

Fixed that last reply for ya.

"Terrible" and "soulless" are your opinions, so I don't care. Also, keep in mind that "worth" is subjective. I'm worth nothing to you, you're worth nothing to me, but we are both of immense worth to ourselves. And do you seriously think I can't comprehend their suffering? I realize their lives are terrible; that's not the issue. I don't care that their lives are terrible, because like you, their lives are worthless to me. Cheap access to electronics is a benefit to me, while the suffering of others is generally of no consequence to me. It's quite simple.

CrossLOPER:
Relish in the fortune that there are those who do not think like you, and have driven forth their ideals that undoubtedly made your life as comfortable as it is now.

Oh, of course, because all of human development has just been one big charity project, right? Wrong. Compassion is not necessary to build society. In fact, I'd say it's a pretty minor factor. Think of it this way: why do we have things like OSHA, minimum wage, and worker's compensation? Is it because the big corporate bosses felt compassion for their workers and gave it to them? No, it's because those workers wanted to make things better for themselves, and determined that the best way to do so was to form labor unions and make demands of their employers. It worked, you see. Why, then, did those corporations exist in the first place? Capitalism. Entrepreneurs wanted to make things better for themselves by making lots of money, so they invested in the companies that make the things we enjoy, like the laptop I'm typing on right now. Did the companies just give these things to me out of the kindness of their hearts? No, I had to pay for them. It's quid pro quo, the completely selfish founding principle of economics.

KingGolem:
I don't care

Wow, you're so edgy I think I got a papercut reading your post.

KingGolem:
I fail to see the issue here. What I took from the article was this: the exploitation of the Congolese people provides us with cheap minerals. Cheap minerals means cheaper electronics, which is nice. As this exploitation allows us to enjoy cheaper electronics, I must endorse it. Cheaper electronics is something that positively affects me, while the suffering of Africans is of no importance at all.

You seem to be under the misconception that all this chaos in the DRC is somehow benefiting you. Sure, slave labour makes things cheaper but that saving is mitigated at least in part by the lack of regulation that allows it to exist in the first place. Let's compare this to the sweat shops in China. There you have cheap labour making cheap goods that are quickly exported to the glorious USA, critically all this is done in an evironment of stability.

In the DRC we have frequent and unpredictable armed conflict disrupting commerce and production. We have innumerable parasites/middle men "taxing" the resources before they are even sent to the smelters. I'd like to know the measure with which you determined that slaves using hand tools are cheaper and more efficient at moving resources than mining companies with excavators, trucks and screening tools are.

I really would not be surprised if it would work out in your favour fiscally if the DRC is stabilised. Also I believe you are trolling.

I honestly hope he's trolling because otherwise he's just a genuinely disgusting and terrible human being.

Alexnader:

KingGolem:
I fail to see the issue here. What I took from the article was this: the exploitation of the Congolese people provides us with cheap minerals. Cheap minerals means cheaper electronics, which is nice. As this exploitation allows us to enjoy cheaper electronics, I must endorse it. Cheaper electronics is something that positively affects me, while the suffering of Africans is of no importance at all.

You seem to be under the misconception that all this chaos in the DRC is somehow benefiting you. Sure, slave labour makes things cheaper but that saving is mitigated at least in part by the lack of regulation that allows it to exist in the first place. Let's compare this to the sweat shops in China. There you have cheap labour making cheap goods that are quickly exported to the glorious USA, critically all this is done in an evironment of stability.

In the DRC we have frequent and unpredictable armed conflict disrupting commerce and production. We have innumerable parasites/middle men "taxing" the resources before they are even sent to the smelters. I'd like to know the measure with which you determined that slaves using hand tools are cheaper and more efficient at moving resources than mining companies with excavators, trucks and screening tools are.

I really would not be surprised if it would work out in your favour fiscally if the DRC is stabilised. Also I believe you are trolling.

Exactly, not to mention supply might be disrupted because of all the armed conflict as workers are frequently displaced.

Also, he is trolling.

That was very enlightening. I'll be sharing this wherever I can.

And King Golem makes me want to wish for the death of anonymity on the internet, because he wouldn't be splurging his caustic bullshit all over the forum if his employer could see it.

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