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September 15, 2015


14 Year Old Child Bride Facing Death Penalty for Murdering Husband -

Saturday, November 29, 2014

BREAKING: New Coal Disaster In West Virginia -

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

U.S. Hostage Freed by Colombia’s FARC Rebels (Video) -

Monday, October 28, 2013

Here’s Why The Zimmerman Verdict Matters -

Sunday, July 14, 2013

BREAKING! UK Government Spied On Allies At TWO G20 Summits (Video) -

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Swiss Support Tougher Asylum Legislation as Refugee Numbers Spike -

Monday, June 10, 2013

American Woman Killed in Syria Fighting for Terrorists, Syrian TV Claims (Video) -

Friday, May 31, 2013

CO2 in the Air Reached its Highest Level in Human History -

Friday, May 10, 2013

Terms of the New Abortion Bill Agreed by Irish Cabinet -

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boston In Lockdown As Manhunt Intensifies -

Friday, April 19, 2013

2 Dead, Dozens Injured After Boston Marathon Bombing -

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fast Food Workers in New York Stage Surprise Strike -

Saturday, April 6, 2013

N. Korean Rhetoric Provokes Missile Shield Deployment -

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eyewitness Accounts from Meiktila Massacre -

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sudan to Free All Political Prisoners -

Monday, April 1, 2013

A New Free Press In Burma Juxtaposed With Genocide: The World Will Be Watching -

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pressure Builds to End Ethnic Violence in Myanmar -

Friday, March 29, 2013

Activists Demand Action As Further Genocide Looms -

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cyprus Reaches Last-Minute Bailout Deal With EU -

Monday, March 25, 2013

Myanmar Muslims Brace for Possible Genocide -

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mommy, Where Do Smartphones Come From?

The most byooootiful place in the world, sweetie.  A place called Bangka.  In the country of In-do-ne-s-ia.

Bangka Island, Indonesia, a predominately Muslim population of 960,000, located due east of Sumatra.  An amalgam of what used to be swamps, palm trees, magnificent beaches, mangroves, white pepper fields, plains and hills.  It is today best described as “a barren wasteland“, borne of one of the world’s greatest resources for the tin ore ultimately used in the composition of the Smartphone you are probably using to read this. Tin mining. Mining this island’s soil, which has left it bereft and cratered.

Mining in the island’s once-pristine waters by dredging the ocean floor, ruinous for the fishing community.  Bangka’s forests, leveled – illegally – for “exploratory” reasons.  Newer regulations demanding that mining activities be conducted at least 4 miles from the island’s shores – outright ignored (the pillaging continues a mere 65 feet from Bangka’s waters).  Utter carnage of marine ecosystems, natural resources and human dignity.  And now, Bangka:  proposed site for nuclear power plants (plural).

It is always fascinating to think of where things originate.  In this instance, the “thing” – your Smartphone or your Tablet – is so global, so “everywhere”, so prevalent in our very connection to the world in which we live.  How could we not know?  How could we not wonder how this marvel of technology came to be?  Is it not our moral and ethical responsibility to avoid being labeled simply as “end users”?

We’ve all heard the child labor and sweatshop stories about Apple’s cottage industry in China.  But there is little said of the thriving – and oftentimes deadly – tin mining industry in Bangka, where the use of child and slave labor has metastasized into the global electronic goods supply chain at the expense of the Indonesian people, who have been working in these mines from the time of Dutch colonization in the 19th century.

tinandyouA few facts:

*Tin’s actual use in Smartphones is solder.

*A typical tin mine worker in Indonesia makes the equivalent of $7.95 per day, if lucky.  This is roughly $55 a week.  $222.60 each month. $2,600 annually.  Despite the health and environmental hazards these workers endure, it is a downright coveted job, considered “good money”.

*Prices for tin ore, as you might imagine, are astronomical.

*Mine workers begin and end their days with a bucket and pickaxe; nearly all of the work is done by hand.

*They contend with mercury poisoning, neurological problems and live under the constant threat of landslides.

*There are estimates of up to 50,000 miners working today.

*Samsung, Apple, Sony, Panasonic are just a few of the big-ticket manufacturers getting their materials from Bangka.

Yes, the demand for our technology must be met.  But at what cost, information and instant gratification?  The greatest irony in this sad tale is that the chief derivative mineral of tin ore – cassiterite – ultimately allows our Smartphones to become classified as “eco friendly”.

For the definitive report on mining in Bangka, please see Kate Hodal’s piece in The Guardian, published in November, 2012.

[photo credit:]

KL Johnson (31 Posts)

KL Johnson is a Los Angeles based writer/blogger/journalist and a native of Rayne, Louisiana. She is a graduate of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana (B.A., Mass Communications/Broadcast Journalism) – go Pokes! – and is very fond of sharks, basketball and boxing. In her spare time, she runs a small civil rights legal practice with her longtime partner, Karen, and brings to the table 12+ years of looking at current events through the prism of her writing and legal background. In 1992, she voted for Ross Perot. It is still her most curious act. Twitter: @KLnotrhetorical