The C word : The DRC’s conflict over Coltan

“Kids in Congo are being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America can kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms.” Oona King, British politician, Member of Parliament (1997 – 2005.)

How many people really know about what it takes to make our hi-tech gadgets work and what’s the price? Well, one mineral in particular that is essential to the functionally of your cell phone, laptop, or gaming device is Coltan.

Coltan along with other minerals is found and extracted from mines in the DRC; people are killed, enslaved, and women rapped to gain access and control over minerals (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining). The mining caves are controlled by different groups of armed forces that surround the mining areas and control the flow of people in and out of the mining caves. Through this control armed forces are able to tax the miners, and make a very lucrative profit. The closer you get to the center of the mining sites the more violence, rape and sexual abuse there is (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining).

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nation filled with natural resources of enormous potential wealth. Conversely, it is county torn apart by civil war in the fight to control these internationally valued minerals. Civil conflict arose in the late 90’s surrounding control and power of these resources. During 1996-2002, Congo has had two wars in which armed groups took power over of eastern Congo and they still hold that control today (http://www.raisehopefor congo.org/content/armed-groups). The current civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has devastated the country. In 2003 there was the signing of the peace accords, one of the purposes of this treaty was to have all the separate armed forces come together to form one national army (the FARDC). However, these independent groups had developed a lot of power both economically and socially through the years of war. Of course, many did not want to relinquish this power to a military they didn’t know, as a result many groups stayed independent (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/DR+Congo). The most concentrated amount of fighting is in the east of the country where the sum of minerals is greater.

The eastern Congo is one of the most unsafe places for a woman to live, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is grave. Women are targeted and rape is used as a weapon of war. Every week in eastern Congo, north and south Kivu 160 women are raped. The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has a report that 60% of rape victims in South Kivu were gang raped by armed men. During the last 15 years this conflict has been the cause of more than 5 million deaths and the rape of 300,000 women (http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org /content/sexual-violence). Many of these deaths are a result of the conditions of living produced by civil war. A large portion of these people died due to conditions of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition.
Coltan is so valued because it is a rare mineral mainly found in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining.) Coltan is highly sought after because of its use in just about every new electronic device. Uses for this mineral range from the already mentioned cell phones, laptops, and game consoles to spaceships, and jets (http://www.dominionpaper.com).

Many issues with the mining process in the DRC are the armed groups that control the miners. There are multiple independent military forces controlling the flow of people in and out of the mining caves, charging people a fee for crossing. This is a very lucrative business for the armed groups. After the minerals are extracted from the mines they are smuggled to nearby countries mainly Uganda and Rwanda (http://www.unwatchable. cc/the-true-story/what-is-happening-in-the-congo/). The armed forces control the smuggling routes out of the country. They tax or steal the goods from civilians and smuggle them out of the country illegally. This is another way in which the armed groups control and benefit from the sale of Coltan (http://www.unwatchable.cc/the-true-story/what-is-happening-in-the-congo/).
The Western World is buying Coltan, it’s sold internationally to many large tech corporations. By buying this mineral we are helping to finance the civil war in the DRC. This civil war doesn’t seem to have any inclination of ending soon and will continue as long as armed groups are able to finance themselves in combat by selling this mineral (http://www.sautiyawaku lima.net). There has been some effort to reform the issues of buying this war produced mineral, there is the Dodd – Frank Wall Street reform Act passed in the US in 2010, it obligates companies to report what country they have bought their minerals from, so that these companies will have to reveal conflict minerals in their supply chain. The difficulty with this is it can easily be manipulated. For example if the label says, “Australia-mined,” it could have been mined in the DRC then shipped to Australia (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining). International electronic companies are fueling this war by not taking responsibility of where their materials come from. Doing business with these armed groups and war lords is criminal; whether the involvement is direct or indirect the result of that business is still resulting in violations of human rights (http://www.unwatchable.cc/the-true-story/what-is-happening-in-the-congo/). There needs to be much more work done on this issue, governments and companies alike need to take an initiative. Internationally there needs to be a process in which Coltan is dealt with. “The long-term solution means global tracking of minerals” Jamie Keen of MiningWatch, Canada (http://find.galegroup.com/coltanmining).
Do you want to help? (http://www.dominionpaper.com)Want to stop indirectly fueling a war but can’t see life without your prized cell phone well how about you try to:
• Call your cell phone manufacturer and ask if their phones contain Congolese Coltan.
• Make sure any of your personal savings/pension money is not invested in companies doing business in the Congo.
• Support the Congolese people by raising awareness.
Sign a petition / Send a message:

Advertisements

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Atigarp
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 03:31:24

    This blog about Coltan was very new to me. I didn’t have any idea that such mineral as Coltan was used for all hi-tech gadgets. I had never thought about the electrical gadgets to be made out of minerals, all I had ever thought was that it was made out of some electrical chips. This was very informative for me.
    It’s sad to see that how we as modern people who is so dependent on the latest techs and gadgets fail to see or even research about how those gadgets are made and who’s suffering because of that.
    We are enjoying the facilities and the people in DRC are suffering from it’s consequences. We should definitely do more research before buying our gadgets and the governments should take a strict step on such production.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: