Smartphone Industry's Dirty Secrets (02:24)
Nearly two billion mobile phones are sold annually; Apple, Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony, Huawei, and HTC profits are skyrocketing. This film investigates how they are made, relying on child labor in China and dangerous mining practices in Africa.
Low Cost Labor Force (02:45)
Most mobile phones are produced in China and brands spend €2-3 per phone on labor. A Nanchang screen supplier promises idyllic working conditions; filmmaker Martin Boudot applies for a job to gain factory access.
Nanchang Factory Investigation (03:38)
China Labor Watch employee Chiang shows footage from a hidden camera while working at LCE. He had to monitor 6,000 screens daily, while being paid 70 cents an hour. He also reports child workers, a violation of international law.
Child Labor Evidence (03:40)
The LCE factory denies employing children under 16. From a hidden location, Boudot's team films workers leaving after a shift; most are adolescents.
Illegal Labor Practices (02:34)
Xia Xia, 13-years-old, left school to support her family. She cleans 100 screens per hour during 13 hour shifts and earns €160 per month. LCE screens are sold to Huawei but executives refused to be interviewed.
Corporate Response to Child Labor (04:15)
Huawei claims a zero tolerance policy for underage workers. LCE supplies Wiko, a low cost mobile phone headquartered in Marseilles. Boudot's footage shocks an executive and he plans surprise factory visits; Alcatel hasn't responded to interview requests.
Mobile Phone Mineral Resources (02:13)
Hear countries in which materials are mined for smartphone components and learn about tantalum capacitor function. Most tantalum is sourced in the Congo. The poverty in Rubaya shocks Boudot's team.
Tantalum Mine (03:49)
Boudot's team visits a Rubaya extraction site. Despite the mineral's lucrative market price, workers are subjected to dangerous conditions—working 12 hour days for €5.50. While filming, the gallery ceiling begins to collapse; crew and workers scramble out.
Tantalum Mining Injuries (02:30)
Rock slides are a major threat. An Italian surgeon treats workers at Rubaya's NGO hospital; most have broken limbs and chest traumas. Those who die aren't officially counted, and are known as the "phantom dead."
Phantom Dead (02:29)
Retired miner Norbert Guira explains that bodies are left buried under rock slides and work continues around them. Children and pregnant women receive instructions to leave while Boudot's team is filming.
Tantalum Supply Chain (04:32)
Most Rubaya mines supply AVX, which produces tantalum capacitors for Nokia. Nokia claims to source raw materials responsibly. Microsoft is Nokia's parent company, but Bill Gates denies responsibility for mining deaths.
Samsung Labor Rights Violations (02:45)
NGOs criticize the world's biggest phone vendor for poor working conditions; subcontractors are warned before inspections. Lawsuits were filed against the company in Brazil and France. Among the complaints are workers' health and false advertising about ethical practices.
Mobile Phone Congress (03:51)
Boudot's team attends the unveiling of Samsung's Galaxy 5. A representative claims the product improves human lives, but refuses to comment on child labor complaints. Afterwards, Samsung announces new measures combating child labor.
Environmental Pollution (02:27)
Mobile phone magnets are made with neodymium mined in Baotou, China. For each ton produced, 1.75 tons of waste is discharged into an 11 square kilometer lake. The area is radioactive.
Human Health Impacts (02:51)
Neodymium factory owners Baogang Group refuse interviews. Boudot's team finds a town nearly abandoned in the contaminated zone. Residents suffer cancer but can’t afford to leave. Boudot’s team collects a well water sample from a restricted area.
Deadly Water (02:33)
Boudot's team sends a Baotou well sample to France for analysis; it contains high levels of arsenic, lithium, manganese, and uranium—carcinogenic metals. A hidden camera in Baotou's hospital confirms increased cancer rates.
Chinese Public Health Censorship (02:39)
Doctors confirm that Baogang factory pollution is killing Baotou residents but Chinese authorities are not burying the story. Boudot's team has to promise not to report their findings and relinquish a memory card. Sony and LG say they’ll internally investigate the neodymium producer.
Improving Mobile Phone Production (03:39)
Boudot's team interviews Digital Europe about Baogang's pollution; companies continue working with the neodymium producer. Consumer activism reformed sport shoe labor practices in the 1990s; a model that could be repeated today. Dutch company Fairphone offers a fair trade smart phone.
Credits: Underhand Tactics: The Real Price of Your Mobile Phone (00:60)
Credits: Underhand Tactics: The Real Price of Your Mobile Phone
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