In the December 2011 quarter, Apple made  $13 billion in profits, an extraordinary figure, 3 billion more than the revenue of Google in the quarter. Apple is an innovation machine, making it so is the legacy of Steve Jobs.

However, there is usually a flip side to the stories of huge success, Jobs was not the nicest person around, brilliant, magnetic, but a real genuine article prick, according to his biographer, and the woes of Apple contract manufacturers in China are well known.

But, who has heard of the mineral Tantalum? Apple uses it, as does every other producer of our electronic gadgets.

Talison, a company headquartered in Perth used to mine tantalum in Australia, a mineral extracted from an ore called Coltan, short for Columbite-tantalite, but no longer due to competitive price pressure coming from African supplies. Pity we lost another market.

Coltan is now one of the minerals being mined in West Africa, using primitive tools, and kids paid slave wages, sold so we can have the latest gadget, and the nasties in charge can buy more guns and anti-personnel mines, and fill their Swiss bank accounts.

This blog is usually about marketing, management, and the stuff that hopefully scratches my readers brains to facilitate improvement. However, from time to time, we need to think about the ethical base of what we do. 

This almost unknown story of Coltan ore, and its derivatives should be on our agenda.