The saddest thing to watch as the world’s political systems deteriorate is the barbaric resurgence of child labor in Africa.
There are many causes, but the single-most critical one is that America no longer regulates how multinational corporations get the precious rare earths mined in the eastern DRC.
Recent reports by both Foreign Policy Magazine and the New York Times reveal that like a lightning-fast barracuda who waits patiently in its cave until just the right time, Erik Prince of Blackwater has begun the strike.
There’s so much sadness about the eastern DRC, the region known as Kivu, that it’s hard every time I write about it. When I was young I traveled often through its magical forests and highland jungles that seemed to have everything necessary for paradise.
Then it all came unraveling, war by war, the result of hasty and cruel colonialism and the vagaries of the World’s Cold War. It was hard to imagine it could get worse. Then cobalt was discovered. Then copper. Then titanium and lithium and a dozen other rare earth minerals absolutely essential for the newly emerging digital world.
With no local government so no mine regulations, it became a free-for-all. Sony, Intel, Apple, Motorola – they’ve all at least once been caught then fined for buying these rare earths from warlords whose principle diggers are children under 12.
Many other corporations, like Tesla, Volkswagen, Samsung, General Motors, and Renault have all publicly announced they will begin buying cobalt again that comes from The Congo.
From whom? They had stopped after the Dodd-Frank Bill regulated them, forcing them to prove the rare earth didn’t come from child labor, which they couldn’t do. So they turned to Australia and other places where there’s plenty of rare earths but much more expensive.
Obviously, Erik Prince has come to their rescue.
Quite publicly in an interview on CNBC Prince made the totally ludicrous claim that he would source these minerals ethically. It’s reported he had no trouble raising a half billion dollars from hedge funds to start the effort.
How Prince, one of the most unethical mercenaries in existence, will figure out how to get minerals justly out of The Congo, when scores of humanitarian NGOS, governments and the UN have been unable to, is beyond imagination. Only when the Dodd-Frank bill passed was their hope, and it was never fully realized but enough to prove it was the right direction.
There is no government in the area in which these rare earths are mined. So who will Prince negotiate with? There’s only one answer: the individual mine owners, who are warlords.
Kivu is deteriorating by the minute. All that seems to be increasing is ebola, which because of the growing wars following last month’s disputed national election is persisting much longer than former outbreaks.
I’ll give you one thing: War and plagues is something Erik Prince leverages well. You may indeed see a penny reduction in the cost of your iPhone9, for every 9 children scarred to death in the disease-infected holes of The Congo.