I just recently heard about a really disturbing topic. And the most disturbing part about it is that we all have blood in our hands. Whether it’s a mobile phone or a PlayStation…for these gadgets to work, there is a brutal war going on in the Congo…
What do we need Coltan for?
The ore Coltan is just one of many minerals over which there is a civil war going on. When it comes to its mineral reserves (particularly diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, tin, and copper) the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the richest countries in the world. And Coltan is its Gold. Out of the ore you obtain the rare metal Tantalum. Without it, the modern world wouldn’t be the same: Tantalum is used in cameras, game consoles, laptops, flatscreen Tvs, nuclear reactors as well as our mobile phones. Since all of these gadgets are produced in huge quantities, the demand for Coltan constantly ascends. And the worst part about this: there is no real alternative for it.
The Coltan War.
80% of the world’s known Coltan supply is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Experts say, that the demand for Coltan is one of the driving forces behind the war in the DRC. Most of the mines are rebel-controlled. A UN-report states that the Rwandan army made 250 million US $ from selling Coltan in less than 18 months (even though there is no Coltan in Rwanda to mine). Apart from the corruption that is going on, child labour is also very common in the Congo, and the mining industry is no exception. In the past ten year, millions of people have died; villages have been (and still are) raided & families have been massacreded. The money from the Coltan sale is often immediately spent on new weapons; it’s a vicious circle.
Farmers have been forced off their land (or were forced to mine themselves) as war has ravaged their land. Most of the men who work in the Coltan business used to be farmers. Their wage is above average with about 200 US $ per month. Though the problem about this issue is simple as well. Once they get payed, it’s not unlikely that they’ll be robbed as soon as they return home. The people can’t do anything about this, because…well, life is cheap in Africa…
The Congo is well knows for its Silverback Gorillas and they are also one of the victims because the main area in which Coltan is mined, is in the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park. This park is home to the famouse Mountain Gorilla. Diane Fossey also started studied their life here, before she decided to leave for Rwanda. Miners are killing the gorillas for their “bush meat”. It’s highly priced and therefore the demand is rising. There are only about 130 free living Mountain Gorillas left in this National Park (where before there were over 14.000), and their numbers are still decreasing.
What can we do?
Well, there is not that much that we “little ones” can do, because as usual this lies with the big companies. But there’s still something that each and every one of us can do:
- Try not to buy a new mobile phone every year. Of course we all know that the iPhone 5 will be faster & better than the iPhone 4, but if you wait one more year, there’s going to be a new phone on the market anyway…
- If you do decide to throw out your old phone, think of a way to recycle it. Give it to charity, or look on the Internet for other ways of recycling.
- Spread the word. Most people don’t even know about this issue and the situation hasn’t changed mostly because the consumers don’t complain. Visit RaiseHopeforCongo.org to get more information.