Tag: conflict minerals

Unwind from China? Can It Be Done?


This is a subject that has come up first in the comments with the @jameslileks post “Watching the CCP Press,” and which @iWe explored further by asking “whether one would trade with Nazi Germany.” We need additional information, indeed hard data, to even begin to look at the practicalities. Some here have mandated that we somehow absolutely cease trade with China. Others (and indeed most, I should think) would argue that an absolute embargo is both undesirable, and indeed impossible in any situation short of open warfare, but that we should certainly reevaluate what we are trading with China, and how we are doing so.

But to even have that discussion we need to know something of the extent of what we buy from China (and really, from everywhere else too), and how that really affects us, otherwise, should the absolutists be granted their immediate wish and all trade cease, the results may be distinctly unpleasant. I own and run a company that manufactures electronics, and so, at least as far as electronics go, I do have rather a lot of insight into what exactly comes out of China, and whether alternatives exist. I have done a Country of Origin query on the bills of materials (BOMs) for a couple of my products, and will detail those below, and what the implications are.

Product 1:

Crystals the Color of Sweat and Blood


I was a minor rock hound — a rock pup, if you will — in my youth. Nothing serious, a small collection, only a few spectacular finds of my own, the rest either dull or store-bought. I liked crystals. But not as “wellness” aids. The folklore surrounding minerals, including their medicinal use, is part of their history. Still, I found myself mildly disappointed by the degree to which even geology shops treated the folklore as true.

Apparently, “wellness” claims for rocks have only gotten worse — er, I mean, more popular — since I was a young rock hound. Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, has gifted the world with Goop, like crystal-enhanced water bottles! Yoni eggs! (Warning: these eggs NSFW.) Rose quartz, with its soft pink hue, is particularly popular for “wellness.” Fair-trade certification, which is supposed to guarantee humane treatment of workers, is also popular in wellness products. But — and it’s a big but — most “wellness” crystals are far from fair trade. That pretty rose quartz is the color of sweat and blood.

Poor folk paid pennies to mine, in cramped, dangerous conditions, rocks that richer folk will sell for hundreds of dollars doesn’t shock me. Terrible as these mining jobs are, people choose these jobs over the other available alternatives. But then, I’m usually of the attitude that there’s no reason why bad conditions couldn’t get worse, and that’s not an attitude I’d expect the “wellness” crowd, which believes in “wellness,” after all, to share. Even someone resigned, or callously indifferent, to human suffering might balk at the environmental damage wreaked by humanity’s current appetite for crystalline “wellness.” I have a rare stone in my wedding ring, but it’s lab-created: I didn’t find it appealing to molest tons of extra earth for one small pebble, not even for a wedding ring — especially when a better-quality version of the same crystal can be easily made in the lab. Natural and environmentally-friendly aren’t always the same thing.

Conflicted Minerals – Predictable Disaster


It is something of a truism that the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  I think if it is paved with such, the mortar between the paving stones must be made of NGOs.  It would be hard to argue, for instance, that NGOs in Haiti in recent years have been especially helpful, considering there is a good argument that they are responsible for the death of local industry there and the spread of cholera, and their track record in many other endeavors is decidedly a mixed bag of horrible waste and fraud concocted of economic ignorance and meddling do-gooderism.  So it is with no small bemusement on my part that yet another of their mad quests is now bearing fruit far different than they claimed to have desired.  In this case, their crusade against mining in central Africa, ostensibly to shut down funding for a prolonged civil war, now appears to have made it far worse.  That this would happen was, of course, predictable at the time.

This holy crusade combined, for these NGOs, what should have been all of their favorite checkboxes: a patronizing view of Africans as being unable to look out for their own interests (and therefore needing Western help), plenty of photo opportunities with impoverished peasants and thuggish militias, and moral proof that our modern lifestyle (in particular, our electronics) are murdering people and raping the planet.  All that was needed was a catchy phrase.  The practically poetic “blood diamonds” was already taken, and it being a bit of a mouthful to say “Bloody Tin, Bloody Tantalum, etc.”, they instead used the phrase “Conflict Minerals”, though as @midge rightly pointed out this does rather sound like a PC way of saying “a cage match between pet rocks”.  So “Conflict Minerals” it is.  

Member Post


Sending out email, watching my skin pale, Poring through websites and 504 errors, Bugging my vendors, Outlook says “unknown senders”, All just to get yet more erroneous reports. Wasting away again in Conflict Mineralville, Searching for yet more smelters of tin, Some people claim that there’s a Sony to blame, But I know it’s Dodd-Frank’s fault. Don’t know the […]

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