Virtually the entire island of Bangka sits on a huge tin deposit. This means that a person can simply go to their backyards and start digging for tin. Many people living on Bangka have done just that or have illegally mined vacant land belonging to the government.
Learning the story of tin should make us all pause to realize how interconnected and complex the global economy is and how ethical issues are related to an object we carry around in our pockets every day.
Because I had known something about the abundance of tin on Bangka prior to my visit to Indonesia, I made it my mission to locate some tin. I asked my host almost every day if we could go to a tin mine. He would say, "Yes, sure", but then the day would pass and no tin. From our cultural training, I surmised that this was the non-confrontational Indonesian way of saying "no."
(Left) The tin that makes the phone possible.
area where tin mining had recently taken place. I took out a baggie and started
to scoop up some grey colored sand, which I was hoping was tin. Just then a
family drove by on a small scooter, and I asked if I was standing on tin. They
said no, and I asked if they could get me some tin (Temah). They shook their
head no and drove away. Two minutes later, they returned and said, there was
tin mining nearby and that they could probably get me some. They returned with
a few ounces of tin. Finally, I had achieved my goal.