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  • SUROOSH ALVI: It's late.

  • We're deep in the heart of it now.

  • I don't know how much water we have.

  • We haven't eaten in a really long time.

  • And my glasses are fogging up because it's so hot.

  • And I can't see.

  • And I'm walking in the mud.

  • I don't know, man.

  • I think this might be the stupidest

  • thing I've ever done.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • It's one of the poorest countries in the world, and

  • thanks to insanely complicated mix of politics, armed

  • conflict, and corruption, it's also one of the most

  • under-reported.

  • It also happens to be home to a nondescript black rock known

  • as coltan, a vital ingredient in the production of nearly

  • every cell phone and computer on the planet.

  • Without coltan, our technology-driven lives would

  • come to a screeching halt.

  • And Congo has 80% of the world's supply.

  • Congo also has cassiterite, gold, and a slew of other

  • minerals that make the world go round.

  • Now, you'd think that having so much of the stuff would be

  • good for Congo, but the reality is far from the case.

  • There's a reason they're called conflict minerals.

  • [SHOUTING]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Since the mid 1990s, armed groups have used

  • these minerals to fund a series of fantastically

  • complicated and horrifically violent wars.

  • MALE SPEAKER: We have to kill them.

  • We have to kill them.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: And as the tech boom drove up the price of

  • these minerals, violence skyrocketed.

  • Slaves to technology that we are, we had see for ourselves

  • where these minerals were coming from and what these

  • rebels were fighting for.

  • MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: So together with my cameraman Jake and producer

  • Jason, we hopped on a plane and flew to Congo.

  • Our first stop was Kinshasa.

  • To say that Congo's natural resources have been more of a

  • curse than a blessing would be an understatement.

  • Conrad described this place as "the vilest scramble for loot

  • that has ever disfigured the human conscience." That was

  • written in the 1800s, right around the time that Belgian

  • colonists were stripping the country of its rich supply of

  • ivory and rubber, killing nearly half the population in

  • the process.

  • In the 1960s, it was the United States that was after

  • Congo's cobalt for its Cold War fighter jets, leading to

  • its support for a dictator who renamed the country Zaire and

  • embezzled billions of dollars.

  • MOBUTO SESE SEKO: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Today, it's the global demand for technology

  • that is inadvertently fueling the conflict in Congo.

  • The statistics we read are staggering.

  • Five million people have died in the Congo because of this

  • conflict since the mid '90s until about 2007.

  • It's a huge number.

  • The most since any war since World War II.

  • The government in Kinshasa says that the war is over, but

  • Kinshasa is a long way from the jungles of eastern Congo,

  • where most of the rebel groups and the minerals that finance

  • them are located.

  • So we needed to go east to find out what was

  • really going on.

  • One thing that had been drilled into our heads before

  • we came to Congo was that you do not fly

  • on Congolese airlines.

  • This is a country whose aircraft are banned from

  • European airspace.

  • Last year, a crash that killed 20 people was the result of a

  • crocodile escaping from a passenger's carry on luggage.

  • But with Goma being over 1,000 miles away, we didn't have

  • much of a choice.

  • And as it turned out, that flight would be the most

  • comfortable experience of the days to come.

  • One thing we've noticed since we came here is that there are

  • fires burning everywhere in Congo.

  • I guess they're just burning their garbage.

  • But it kind of feels apocalyptic at times.

  • Watch out.

  • We're in Goma.

  • It's in eastern Congo, right on the Rwandan border.

  • This has been the epicenter of the conflict since 1994.

  • It's also the center for humanitarian aid.

  • There are 51 different international organizations

  • based here.

  • As you can see, there's UN guys everywhere around us.

  • It's kind of chaotic.

  • We're also pretty close to the mines where coltan is

  • extracted from, and we're going to go check that out.

  • When we got to Goma, we met up with Tim Freccia, a veteran

  • crisis and conflict photographer who has worked in

  • Congo for years.

  • He told us that we were under-dressed for our trip to

  • the cold mountain mining town of Numbi, so we went shopping.

  • I've got a nice polo here.

  • I got a Minnesota Golden Gophers hoodie.

  • Jake got a great Carhartt.

  • But I think this might be a strong look when I'm going to

  • interview the militia.

  • Some Wu wear.

  • The only problem is it's fucking disgusting.

  • Is it pretty good?

  • MALE SPEAKER: Yeah.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Yeah, you like it?

  • MALE SPEAKER: I like it.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: He likes it.

  • We got our outfits.

  • So we're going to visit the mines today, the Numbi mines.

  • It's where they extract coltan from.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: And cassiterite and tourmaline, and some other

  • precious stones.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: This is Horeb.

  • He's our new buddy.

  • He's our new best friend.

  • He knows everyone.

  • He's a bit of a celebrity in these parts.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: [SPEAKING FRENCH]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: He's got a TV show.

  • What's your show called?

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: Monusco Realites.

  • It's a kind of Congo reality.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Is it safe to say that you're a Congolese

  • reality TV star?

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: I'm a celebrity for many Congolese, just

  • because I tell them the stories which they--

  • SUROOSH ALVI: They don't know.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: They don't know.

  • I tell stories about Congo.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: I've driven a lot of treacherous roads

  • before, but this one seems to be the worst.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: We are still going up.

  • Up and up.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Oh my god, I can't even look right now.

  • This is completely fucked.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: Yeah, Yeah.

  • I saw vehicles, they went down.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Fall down the hill?

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: It's not a safe road, yeah.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: We figured that out.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: Despite the beauty of this place.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Yeah, it's beautiful.

  • HOREB BUJAMBO: Yeah.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: What if we all just push him out?

  • Straight out?

  • Nothing's working this way.

  • He's not getting anywhere.

  • MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Where did all these people appear from?

  • Like, we're in the middle of nowhere.

  • I thought you were kidding when you said

  • hiring local labor.

  • They just conveniently had a shovel, as well.

  • MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Like, as soon as we sank into the mud hole, the

  • kids were all like, thumbs up, we got him.

  • Now they're all here, and they're going to work until

  • they get us out, and they're gonna get paid.

  • MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Yes, yes.

  • We finally got out.

  • But before long, we got stuck again.

  • And again.

  • And again.

  • Until one thing became very clear.

  • We were not making it back to Goma anytime soon.

  • It looks like we're probably going to end up sleeping at

  • the mines tonight, which is a bit odd.

  • I can't believe connecting two land cruisers

  • with seatbelts worked.

  • They're saying we have to hurry because it's going to

  • rain again soon, and if we don't get past this patch of

  • red earth, we're going to be stuck sleeping here.

  • When we finally got to Numbi, we had to smooth talk the

  • local officials into showing us the mines.

  • So these are all the powerful dudes of the town.

  • Yet another negotiation.

  • Bonjour, Suroosh.

  • MALE SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE].

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Nice to meet you.

  • [FRENCH].

  • This way.

  • In what would become a running theme for the rest of our

  • trip, the locals said the mines were just over there

  • around the bend.

  • And then we would get over there and around the bend,

  • they were just over there, and over the hill.

  • Like a quick two kilometers.

  • Holy fuck.

  • I'm about to pass out, Jake.

  • Hey Jake, how many people are working?

  • JAKE BURGHART: None.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Really?

  • JAKE BURGHART: They've all gone home.

  • We have to come back tomorrow.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: The mine had no miners.

  • It was completely empty.

  • The locals told us that this mine in particular is owned by

  • a member of Congo Senate who lives in Kinshasa, and that

  • his miners pull 15 kilos of coltan out of it every day.

  • At $30 a kilo, that's about $13,000 a month, a lot of

  • money in a country where most of the people survive on less

  • than $1 a day.

  • And while the senator gets the big rocks, the bottom feeders

  • get by on what washes down the stream.

  • So we got totally set up.

  • Basically when we pulled into town.

  • MALE SPEAKER: Lower, lower, lower your voice.

  • SUROOSH ALVI: Basically we got totally set up.

  • When we pulled into town, alarm bells went off.

  • And they said yeah, we'll show you a mine, and they took us

  • on a trek far, far away from town to a mine where they sent

  • in advance someone ahead of us to clear everyone out because

  • there were kids working in the mine.

  • Then we got there, and they're like, oh, yeah, everybody's

  • just gone home for the day.

  • They actually fessed up to that to Horeb, to our guy, so,

  • I'm still pissed off.

  • It's gonna be an interesting night.

  • Probably about 5:30 in the morning here in the Numbi

  • mining town.

  • This is a town with no electricity,

  • with no running water.

  • We basically got stranded out here, which wasn't really part

  • of the plan.

  • They didn't take too kindly to us initially, but they were

  • even worried about our safety, because we're in South Kivu,

  • and they're not used to this kind of thing.

  • A bunch of foreigners spending a night here.

  • They gave us this little house to stay in.

  • Then they offered us a couple soldiers to guard

  • us all night long.

  • You know, yesterday we experienced them trying to

  • keep some secrets hidden.

  • So today we have a plan.

  • We're going to break free.

  • We're going to go a couple kilometers, and we're going to

  • set up and wait for the miners to show up so we can really

  • see how these mines operate.

  • This is the main street of the Numbi mining town.

  • It's very muddy today, after raining all night.

  • It reeks of urine.

  • Here's my breakfast, along with two Advils and some kind

  • of mega antibiotic cure all.

  • When anything goes wrong in Africa, you take that pill.

  • Plugs up your ass, reduces fever.

  • Well, so much for getting a head start on everyone.

  • Oh, shit.

  • Jason, Jason, come here.

  • I think it's like, quicksand.

  • I just kept going down.

  • This is not going to be fun.

  • This is the main Numbi mine.

  • Just got there.