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Conflict organs


Contrabombarde
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Some of you will know that I've spent the past three years working in the Democratic Republic of Congo which has been in a state of anarchy and war for more than a decade, driven in large part by natural resources. In the past we've had our attention drawn to "conflict diamonds" which fueled the war in Sierra Leone, and recent protests about "conflict minerals" have highlighted the problems currently in Congo. Famously Steve Jobs was questioned, and unable to confirm, that iphones do not make use of materials obtained from areas of conflict or under militia control.

 

Which brings me to wonder how difficult is it to have a certified supply chain that doesn't buy resources from dubious sources. The organ building industry must get through more tin than most industries, both in the pipe metal and in lead-free solder. Do we have any idea where it comes from (at least, where in the ground it came from before being sold to organ builders from tin refineries?) If, to paraphrase an article in the latest Organist's Review, organs are potentially "green" instruments, being largely made of sheep and trees, are they green enough to be able to not use materials whose extraction is perpetuating armed conflicts?

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If, to paraphrase an article in the latest Organist's Review, organs are potentially "green" instruments, being largely made of sheep and trees, are they green enough to be able to not use materials whose extraction is perpetuating armed conflicts?

 

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post deleted due to out of date information

 

 

MM

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Altough I would assume that most of you would first check about tin production here, I would like to quote from Wikipedia, nevertheless:

 

"The ten largest companies produced most of world's tin in 2007. It is not clear which of these companies include tin smelted from the mine at Bisie, Congo-Kinshasa, which is controlled by a renegade militia and produces 15,000 tons. Most of the world's tin is traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME), from 8 countries, under 17 brands."

 

I really wonder whether someone has any more detailed information about this (?).

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Some of you will know that I've spent the past three years working in the Democratic Republic of Congo which has been in a state of anarchy and war for more than a decade, driven in large part by natural resources. In the past we've had our attention drawn to "conflict diamonds" which fueled the war in Sierra Leone, and recent protests about "conflict minerals" have highlighted the problems currently in Congo. Famously Steve Jobs was questioned, and unable to confirm, that iphones do not make use of materials obtained from areas of conflict or under militia control.

 

Which brings me to wonder how difficult is it to have a certified supply chain that doesn't buy resources from dubious sources. The organ building industry must get through more tin than most industries, both in the pipe metal and in lead-free solder. Do we have any idea where it comes from (at least, where in the ground it came from before being sold to organ builders from tin refineries?) If, to paraphrase an article in the latest Organist's Review, organs are potentially "green" instruments, being largely made of sheep and trees, are they green enough to be able to not use materials whose extraction is perpetuating armed conflicts?

 

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I got off to a faltering start with this question; basing my answer on old information which is now completely out of date.

 

China is now the biggest producer of tin and tin products; accounting for around 80% of tin production and mining, with huge amounts in reserve.

 

First a small point concerning the uses of tin and the volume used by organ-builders. The biggest uses for tin are still to be found in solder, metal can coatings (nowadays external, with a plastic interior lining) and specialised alloys such as bronze.

Consider the size of super-tanker propellors, (about the size of a small house) and it is immediately apparent that organ-building is very small beer by way of comparison. Tin is also used in specialist alloys in the motor industry and general engineering, when bearing material is usually an alloy of reticular-tin/aluminium; often with bronze shells also containing tin.

 

With regards illegal mining, gang masters, criminals, forced labour and under the counter deals in a black-market, how could anyone actually police it?

 

The recognised international trade bodies will always act responsibly, but that doesn't mean that dealers will deal outside the control of the tin manufacturing organisations. The same is true of oil, for which buyers can always be found. Making the law is one thing, and even making international agreements, but as the arms trade demonstrates, there are "friendly regimes" which can facilitate illegal, back-door trading. In fact, the recognised tin production bodies have a vested interest in ensuring that tin is supplied from recognised, legally compliant countries and organisations, because cheap tin sold on a black market can only cause an immediate depression of the market price.

 

So far as organ-builders are concerned,theywill use recognised suppliers or wholesalers, who will almost certainly buy from recognised sources. That is not to say that illegally mined or produced tin cannot be in the supply-chain, but it is unlikely, in view of the very small amounts involved in black-market trading.

 

With little internal industry and rising demand for all raw materials, Africa is literally a "gold mine" for a number of products, and it is a known fact that China has been gobbling-up land and mining deals across Africa, covering any number of raw material supplies.

 

I'm afraid that where there is money to be made, there will always be illegal activity, and that is as true in the west as it is elsewhere.

 

The sad thing is, tin mining is often dangerous, often limits the life of mine-workers and may well involve child-labour, as it did in Bolivia, and may still do so to-day.

 

It's a bad world.

 

 

MM

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