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Electronics, especially phones, dominated our life in the 21st century; we simply cannot live without them. Among all the phone companies in the world, Apple is definitely at the top. Luckily, I have had the chance to own an iPhone 7 plus which is a device owned by few wealthy individuals at the expense of many poor countries globally. In order to make new iPhones, two countries must be involved: Congo and China. The raw materials that were discovered and extracted from Congo were exported to China where they are  put together into actual phones. The raw materials that were used to create the phones are know as Coltan, which is mainly found in Africa and controlled by a group of people worked in Congo. Although it seems easy to make an iPhone, the reality says otherwise. Workers in the Congo will encountered many economic and political issues which they have to suffer through every day. Similar to the workers in the Congo, Chinese workers were also worked under severe conditions enforced by those electronics industries. This process will never end since we live under capitalism which getting the newest model keeps our economy running. Then, the question arises: where did all the old phones go after we throw it away? The answer lies in the rural areas of undeveloped countries in Asia where only a few people know of. Extracting raw materials in Congo, manufacturing iPhones in China, and dumping e-waste in the undeveloped countries altogether contribute to why I am able to own and use my iPhone right now. 
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, third largest country in Africa, is known for its abundance of world’s electronic resources which one of them being Columbite-tantalite. Columbite-tantalite, also know as coltan, is a unique ore that is pursued by many electronics companies due to its important functionality in making electronics. It is unique because its special property in storing electrical charge in the products. In 1789, Jose Lacerdu e Almeida, a Portuguese explorer sailed to and discovered this new land known as the Congo. Later, King Leopard II of Belgium, who thought that this land can be greatly exploited into profits, colonized Congo in 1908 after negotiating with the tribal leaders in that area. Just a few years later, nationalism rose around neighboring Africa countries which sparked the movement among Congo people in demanding independence.  At the beginning, the Belgium government purposed to establish self-government in the Congo area, but riots upgraded leaving Belgium government no time. After around 50 years of stalemate, Belgium government eventually granted independence to the Congo and promised to help economically. In 1960, The Republic of Congo was established, with its leader Joseph Kasavubu. However, Congo’s independence was immediately challenged by many authority powers in Europe, who were mainly looking for the precious coltan mines. This unique ore that is initiating the war between the Congo’s and the European’s is known by very few people, but millions of people are actually using it. This rare material that has the highest demand in the electrical field is mined by Congo’s workers who struggle to make a living, selling coltan for less than a dollar a day. These ores were mined by children at no cost, who handed them over to their boss. The boss then packed the coltan into bigger bags and passed to the porters. Porters were to travel over mountains to a town called Walikale by foots. In this town, coltan will be sold to a middleman known as the “negotiator.” The negotiator, after receiving the ores, will fly towards Goma where it is sold to traders known as the “comptoirs.” The comptoirs were a group of people who were trained to inspect the quality of coltan and to grind the rocks up to attain the purity of coltan mineral. Then, the purified coltan mineral will be loaded and carried to processing plants by cargo ships. At these processing plants, the ore was grounded and refined to extract tantalum, a powder which is sold to firms making capacitors such as electronics companies. After tantalum has been extracted, it is exported to electronics industries in China to create electronics products.  This process requires many people at work, but only the people on top(boss)  will have big profits while people on the bottom(children, porters) work for little or even at no cost. 
Coltan mines have caused many political and economic conflicts to citizens in the Congo. Unfortunately, these horrendous political and economic conditions must occur in order for the production of iPhone to continue at a fine rate. The political conditions are that foreigners, especially Europeans, intruding Congo and taking control of their coltan mines. As a result, mine workers in Congo will be poorer as they will be forced to work at no cost or deprived of their jobs. The economic conditions taking place are low wages of the workers and cheap extraction of the coltan. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, workers who mine are paid very little while the businessmen are making huge profits every day. Along with the Congo workers who is suffering, people manufacturing iPhones in Foxconn are also put through harsh working conditions. Ironically, Foxconn said that they have provided the workers with luxury amenities such as spas rooms and pools. But the reality is that these workers are put through extensive hours; some can range up to 34 hours. Workers in Foxconn are also facing massive pressure each day because products that are being made must be in perfect shapes otherwise workers will be face with severe punishment. Consequently, many workers attempted jumping out of windows, ending their life instantly due to this high pressure. Fortunately, boss of Foxconn immediately took action and placed nets outside of the building to prevent any future suicide. In order for people like me to use iPhones, these horrible political and economic conditions are inevitable.     
Being able to use a new iPhone smoothly is not just at the cost of the workers in Congo and China, but it is at the greater expense of undeveloped countries that deal with the e-waste. When switching my old phone to a new one, I often think about what newly special functions or features that I can get from it. Last year, switching from an iPhone 5 to an iPhone 7 plus for me was a huge change because iPhone 7 plus is thinner and bigger, can last longer after being charged, and faster due to its higher gigabyte of memory. Yet, my old iPhone 5 must be thrown away and decomposed in undeveloped countries like some rural areas in China. Exporting e-waste is illegal according to laws, but that does not mean everyone is following this law, trying to be legal citizens. There are still some people not following the rules and exporting e-waste to other countries.  Most developed countries wanted to export e-waste simply because e-waste builds up toxins in the areas, polluting nearby rivers and air. If this pollutions were happened in the city of big country, millions of people will be affected and the government will have to spend a lot of money to purify the pollutions. However, if we exported e-waste in undeveloped countries and decomposed in their rural areas, less people will be affected due to less residency around the areas and government would not care as much because environmental protection in undeveloped countries does not exist. Guiyu, a rural area in China, is a prefect example. Six years ago, Guiyu was an agricultural village growing rice. But, it swiftly changed from a farmland to a place for extracting metals in computers. Many people earning huge profits out of dismantling metals from electronics. As a result, Guiyu now becomes a place where dismantling metals is the only way people making a living out of. Unfortunately, most people exported e-waste for economic and environmental purposes. Melting down e-waste in the United States is more expensive compared to that of China and wages for workers in the United States is higher compared to that of China. Additionally, strict environmental laws in the United States preventing e-waste to be decomposed makes it impossible to dismantle the e-waste. In contrast, Guiyu has loose environmental laws that allow people to decompose e-waste freely. As new iPhone models come out in the future, people will continue export old models to places like Guiyu for dismantling e-waste. 
If Congo miners do not extract coltan at low wages, Chinese workers do not manufacturing electronic devices under harsh conditions and places like Guiyu where my old phone was dismantling does not exist, I would not be able to own and use my iPhone 7 plus right now. It was through the hard works of Congo miners and Chinese industrial workers were I be able to use my new iPhone 7 plus. In addition, through the existence of region like Guiyu were I be able to throw away my old iPhone 5 for people in Guiyu to make a living out of.  This cycle will never stop as long as consumers like me will continue to have a high demand for the newest electronics models, and it is the main reason why I have the ability to own and use an iPhone right now. 

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