Updated: 3/25/2007; 11:20:18 PM.

Digital Development
Communications and info tech in developing countries, especially wireless broadband and high-value applications


daily link  Monday, March 12, 2007


Coltan and Your Mobile:  Disturbing effect of a key electronic material on the ongoing disaster in the Congo.  "Columbite-tantalite (from here on referred to as Coltan). On its own it looks and feels like a very fertile soil, but when refined you get a highly heat-resistant metal powder called tantalum. Once refined, coltan has myriad uses, all of which pertain to its particular properties of being a dense mineral with the ability to withstand high temperatures and stress.To the high-tech industry this tantalum is a magic dust that is essential in making computer chips, stereo’s, VCR and DVD players and mobile phones. As such, coltan derivatives are used as capacitors in devices such as mobile phones and even complex missile guidance systems. ..

Coltan is mined by hand in the Congo by groups of men digging basins in streams by scrapping off the surface mud. They then “slosh” the water around the crater, which causes the Coltan ore to settle to the bottom of the crater where it is retrieved by the miners...

While a fair majority of the worlds tantalum supply comes from legitimate mining operations in Australia, Canada and Brazil the recent demand for tantalum has caused a more sinister market to begin flourishing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where 80% of the world’s known coltan supply is subject to “highly organized and systematic exploitation.” There, warring rebel groups - many funded and supplied by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda - are exploiting coltan mining in the Eastern DRC to help finance political and human oppression, child enslavement, torture and war. The mining area is also within one of the main ranges of the threatened Eastern Lowland Gorilla  .. In April of 2001 the United Nations issued a report on the rape of resources from the DRC. In their findings field investigators reported that Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian rebels had looted and smuggled thousands of tons of coltan from the Congo into their countries to export to the global market, using the profits to finance their militias. ..Coltan smuggling has also been implicated as a major source of income for the military occupation of Congo which is also linked to forced child enlisting, rape and the rampant spread of HIV. ..

Manufacturers rely on their “suppliers” which are Tantalum capacitor makers like Kemet of Greenville, S.C., the world’s largest tantalum capacitor maker and on the companies trading the minerals. .. some 80 percent of the worlds Coltan comes from the DRC and most of that passes through several black market hands before its finally delivered to the refineries it what appears to be legitimate means."
  7:34:46 AM  permalink  

 
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Copyright 2007 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 3/25/2007; 11:20:18 PM.