I’m in a café in downtown Toronto. The air is bright with the harmonies of The Supremes and the sunbeams dappling my keyboard. Mines—particularly mines in African countries—seem very far way. They aren’t, though.
The MacBook I’m typing on is cased in aluminum. Mozambique is the second largest aluminum producer in Africa. Its average citizen makes an annual income of USD$900. Pieces of this sleek silver computer could have come from the sandy-clay soils of a country where most earn less in a whole year than this one machine costs.
The coltan in my cellphone may have been mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 15 years of violent struggle for control of the country’s vast resource wealth has killed millions, displaced many more and continue this very minute.