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The Live Wire

The Student News Site of Liberty High School

The Live Wire

Democratic Republic of the Congo: the silent genocide

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), thousands of children and teenagers are forced to mine coltan in hazardous, dangerous and life-taking conditions.
Over 40,000 children and teenagers are being put into hazardous working conditions to extract coltan from mines in the DRC.
Addison Pirkl
Over 40,000 children and teenagers are being put into hazardous working conditions to extract coltan from mines in the DRC.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is one of the world’s largest producers of coltan, a mineral used in phones, laptops, and other electronics. The way the DRC mines coltan is considered to be inhumane and dangerous. Many of the people who help extract coltan from the mines are young, underpaid teenagers and children who are not in school. In the Kivu province of the DRC alone, where 60% of the coltan in the country is found, over 40,000 kids have jobs in the hazardous mines (ISS).
According to the ISS, coltan is used because of its ability to hold and release electrical energy. As 5G technology increases, so will the demand for coltan, which means the increase of child labor as well.
Not only will child labor increase, but so will the danger of the conditions in the mines. These mines are alive with the spread of STIs and STDs, prostitution, child trafficking, sexual harassment, physical abuse, sickness and rape. On top of the abuse, the coltan mines expose the workers to a radioactive substance associated with coltan: radon. Exposure to radon has been shown to be linked to causing lung cancer (ISS).
Donel Baka, a student at Liberty who moved to Iowa from the DRC, gave an opinion on the topic.
“The coltan mines in the Congo are ways some people in the province make money… It upsets me to see kids my age and younger working like they’re adults because they need money to feed themselves and their families,” said Donel Baka, 10.
The DRC government has tried to take preventative measures to stop child labor in the mines. The government has passed multiple laws, signed certification standards in the extractive sector, adopted international certification protocols and even reformed the mining code back in 2017. Yet, none of these measures have stopped child labor, as owners of these mines have found loopholes in the laws, using certification and traceability schemes to keep child workers in their mines. Because of these schemes, most of the coltan extracted in the DRC is uncertified and untraceable (ISS).
The DRC government is understaffed and underfunded, so they cannot make sure the mines are in compliance with the laws already in place (ISS).
Spreading awareness, participating in awareness campaigns and ring-fenced funding, signing petitions and contacting your government officials can all help the DRC. All of these can help the country, and urge them to fix the unethical labor in these mines. The dangerous, harmful working areas will only get worse with the rise of 5G technology.
“People around the world can help by donating to a GoFundMe[,] or an organization that is trying to help, like Save the Children. People should do research and learn about what’s happening in the DRC,” said Baka.
People in the DRC do not have voices right now, and they need the help from people internationally to turn the unethical labor into something more humane and safe. Many people have never heard of this situation happening in the DRC, and the best thing people can do to help is spread awareness so the people of the DRC can be heard.

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About the Contributor
Addison Pirkl, Website Manager
This is Addison's second year on staff as a Website Manager, and she spends most of her time drawing, writing, and having her nose stuck in a book...