One of the latest Anonymous operations, #OpColtan or #OperationGreenRights, aims to raise awarness of AVX Corporation’s maneuvers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998. As of the writing of this article, AVX’s website is down, presumably thanks to Anonymous.
AVX, headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, sells capacitors, electrical components, interconnects and other products to corporations such as Motorola and Nokia. According to an AVX website that is still up, the company operates in a number of markets, including, “computer, telecommunications infrastructure, cellular, industrial, automotive, consumer, military and medical sectors.” AVX is organized as three divisions: Passive Components, KED Resale Components and Interconnects.
It seems that in 2001 the United Nations accused AVX of extracting Columbite-tantalite (coltan), a black metallic ore used in the construction of consumer electronics such as smart phones, computers, DVD players, etc., during a civil war in the Congo in 1998. Warring groups within the Congo had apparently been smuggling coltan out of the region with the help of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. The coltan ultimately ended up in the hands of US manufacturers such as AVX in the form of tantalum. (Profit first, ask questions later.)
The UN’s accusations never culminated in any international action, but AVX claims to be committed to conflict-free tantalum (an element of coltan), with plans for purchasing it from “verified” sources in the DRC and surrounding countries. Anonymous, it would seem, isn’t putting too much faith in AVX to ethically source tantalum from the DRC.
“NOW a new civil war is growing up in Congo and is totally hypocrite to share DRC in different areas in order to say that some of these are war free,” reads Anonymous’s Pastebin post. “AVX, UN trial refused to punish you, but Operation Green Rights doesn’t forget. AVX, is the time to pay for your crimes, the trial is the whole mankind.”
Typical Anonymous rhetoric, but it does serve to shine a light on the reality that DRC is entering another period of civil war, and that corporations could very well profit from it. Hopefully AVX is committed to its “conflict-free” pledge, but with global corporations, profit drives everything, most especially during war.
#OpColtan also demonstrates the upside of Anonymous’s role in raising awareness of global corporate ethics (even as a preventive measure). If the US and UN are unable or unwilling to do anything about it, then there are precious few options other than letting Anonymous do its work.