Danish filmmaker, Frank Piasecki Poulsen, has a Nokia cell phone and has heard that there may be conflict minerals in his phone. When Nokia refuses to acknowledge his request for a transparent supply chain, he goes to the Congo to visit the mines. The documentary is gripping at times because even though the Congo has the highest concentration of UN troops, the UN refuses to chaperone the filmmaker as he visits one of the largest mines in Bisie. The mine is currently controlled by a militia, the 85th Brigade which has gone rogue from the DRC military. Between 15,000 and 25,000 people live at the mine, valued at approximately $70 billion US. The shafts are improvised and highly dangerous. The filmmaker takes us down into the shaft accompanied by a minor. The 85th Brigade tax the workers so heavily that they become indentured servants – essentially slaves. There is no medial care, clean water, nor proper housing.
Poulsen then delved into the history of Nokia, which remarkably has a colonial history in the Congo – the corporation started as a rubber boot company and bought rubber from King Leopold’s rubber slave colonies. Today Nokia is one of the biggest corporations in the world. They claim they are leaders in social responsibility. The filmmaker visits scientists in Germany who claim they can “fingerprint” the source of minerals directly to specific mines, thus no cellphone company can claim that they can’t know the source of the minerals. Poulsen then returns to Nokia to confront the company, however he makes no headway with them in his attempt to achieve a transparent supply chain.
This is today’s “blood diamond” story. I found it a brave film. What I don’t know is how much corporations like Nokia have been doing lately to assure that their products are conflict-mineral free. I doubt they have come along very far since the film was made in 2010. For more on the film or how to contribute to the cause, please visit the official website here.