Is our hunger for new technology dooming DR Congo? | TV Shows

Thursday, February 17 at 7:30 pm GMT:
It is estimated that more than six billion smartphones are used worldwide, and their pocket-sized capacity depends on rare earth elements and precious metals.

Most of us have little to think about the origins of the materials that drive our devices. But ‘Seven Grams’, an app that was recently unveiled in the New Frontier category at the Sundance Film Festival, seeks to change that.

The app combines journalism, augmented reality and animation to show how global demand for ever-faster smartphones is harming people in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where minerals and metals needed for smartphones and other electronic devices are mined.

It is estimated that about 70 percent of the world’s cobalt is produced in the DRC, most of it in the south and east. While multinational mining companies extract most of this heavy metal, a significant amount is mined by artisans who withstand hazardous working conditions. Child labor is commonplace, and women often help prepare freshly extracted material. Medical researchers have found a link between exposure of workers to toxic micronutrients and birth defects in children.

The dangers do not end on the rock. With $ 24 trillion in unused mineral deposits in the DRC, some illegal armed groups are counting on proceeds from illegal mining to fund their activities. Human rights groups have documented that these groups severely insulted civilians.

As multinational companies continue to rely on rare minerals in production, families in DR Congo have recently sought to highlight the impact of mining on them. In December 2019, Apple, Tesla, Dell, Microsoft and Google were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 14 families claiming their children were killed or injured while cobalt mining. All five companies denied liability. Although the case was dropped in November 2021, the family’s lawyers filed an appeal.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at how “Seven Grams” highlights the human sacrifices of mining in the DRC that are driven by the global hunger for electronic devices.

In this episode of The Stream we are joined by:
Karim Ben Khalifa, @kbenk
Directed by “Seven Grams”

Sarah Guinen
Associate Professor at the University of Antwerp

Bossi Nkuba, @BossissiNkuba
Professor at the Catholic University of Bukov


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