Conflict Coltan and Cassiterite

If you have a cell phone, DVD player or use a computer then chances are that some part of these devices are made of  Coltan. Coltan and Cassiterite are minerals found mainly in the Congo where it’s exploitation has been linked to the deadly conflicts and human abuses.

coltan_mines.jpg

These mines are typically worked by children

The good news is that U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced the Conflict Coltan and Cassiterite Act, legislation which would require certification of minerals imported from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Their press release earlier this year

“We are witnessing a grave humanitarian crisis in Congo, and we must act now to put an end to the death and suffering,” said Brownback. “Everyday, Americans use products that have been manufactured using inhumanely mined minerals. The legislation introduced by Senator Durbin and I will bring accountability and transparency to the supply chain of minerals used in the manufacturing of many electronic devices.”

Every day in Congo, 1,500 people die as a direct or indirect result of the conflict over the mining of minerals like cassiterite and coltan; to date, the conflict has displaced more than 1.3 million Congolese and has resulted in over 5.4 million deaths.

“Without knowing it, tens of millions of people in the United States may be putting money in the pockets of some of the worst human rights violators in the world, simply by using a cell phone or laptop computer,” Durbin said. “We ought to do all we can to make sure that the products we use and the minerals we import, in no way support those who violate human rights abroad.”

The Conflict Coltan and Cassiterite Act requires the President to compile a list of armed groups in the DRC committing serious human rights violations, and prohibits the importation into the U.S. of any product containing columbite-tantalite (“coltan”) or cassiterite (tin ore) from the DRC if groups on the list would financially benefit.

Approximately 65% of the world’s coltan reserves are located in Congo. Congolese civilians are terrorized and brutalized by warring rebel groups seeking to capitalize on the mining of these minerals. Coltan is commonly used in electronic devices like cell phones, computers, and DVD players.

You can read more about this piece of legislation and what you can do on Take Action website here. According to this site, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

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7 Comments

  1. Rebecca
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    It just goes to show how little we know about the materials in items we buy. I try hard not to buy products containing palm oil and other environmentally damaging ingredients but it seems almost EVERYTHING has ingredients that are taken from places like Congo, Indonesia and other nature-rich yet financially poor countries at the expense of wildlife, habitat and the local people.
    Is there a way to find out exactly WHICH brands of phones, computers and DVD use coltan?

  2. Madrid
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    También tendrian que controlar que los Ruandeses y otros no se encarguen de expoliar los recursos del Congo y luego vendan el Coltán sin que nadie diga nada, sin embargo, se sabe que no hay Coltán en paises como Ruanda ¿de donde lo sacan?. Esta bien no comprar el Coltán en paises que lo extraen del modo en que se hace en el Congo, pero no me parece bien disimular….y comprarlo a los que en realidad se lo roban o “compran” al Congo, con el pretexto que no se conoce la procedencia.

  3. wayne marshall
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    hi,

    would really like to know which brands use coltan extracted from congo-just saw a documentary on tg4(irish language station)on the issue-first id ever heard.It stated that nokia and motorola had issued directives to their suppliers not to import from congo which is good i guess-but wonder if it actually works out that way

    more info would be great

  4. Posted November 2, 2008 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Here is an individual who would be able to give the list of companies that uses conflict coltan. Please give him a call, he will be glad to answer any question that you might have.

    Kambale Musavuli Student Coordinator 336.207.5819

  5. Posted November 2, 2008 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    also check this website out… congoweek.org it will be helpful.

  6. Seska
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    The whole issue disturbs me, what’s going on must be stopped in some way, it’s depleting wild life and taking lives. And it all ties back into the war that has been going on for years and years, i wish there was some way i could get involved and help…

  7. Chris
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Where does the 65% of world’s reserve of coltan number come from? According to the 2007 US Geological Survey, Australia contains most of the worlds tantalum – the part of the coltan used in consumer electronics – accounting for 53% of the world production. Congo accounted for 0.014%.

    This is not to say that the conflict over minerals has killed millions and devastated ecosystems – those are reprehensible enough to demand action – it’s just that the suffering of the people and the loss of gorilla habitat does not need to be conflated with incorrect facts.

    Here is the 2009 USGS Mineral Commodity Summary for tantalum. Look at note 10 at the bottom of the page. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/niobium/mcs-2009-tanta.pdf

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