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Coltan

From Academic Kids

Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is a black tar-like mineral. It is used to produce tantalum mostly for use in capacitors, which are used in a vast array of small electronic devices, especially in mobile phones, laptop computers, pagers, and the like.

Much of the world's supply of coltan comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A recent UN Security Council report charged that a great deal of it is illegally mined and smuggled out of Congo by armies from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, occupying the eastern region of Congo. One estimate has the Rwandan army making $250 million in 18 months from the sale of coltan, even though Rwanda has no coltan deposits.

Not only does this help finance these armies' war efforts in Congo, it is alleged, but it also has severe environmental repercussions on the forests and wildlife of the area.

They are alleged to sell this mineral, and others that they mine, in order to finance their occupation; to many, this raises ethical questions akin to those of conflict diamonds. Owing to the difficulty of distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate mining operations, several electronics manufacturers have decided to forgo central African coltan altogether, relying on other sources in Australia.

All three countries named by the United Nations as smugglers of coltan have denied being involved.

There has been a significant drop in the production and sale of coltan, tantalum and niobium from these countries since the dramatic and artificial price spike in 2000, which was based on dot com speculation and multiple ordering. This is backed up in part by figures from the United States Geological Survey 2000 (http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/niobium/231302.pdf) 2004 (http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/niobium/tantamcs05.pdf) .

The policy (http://www.tanb.org/tantalum1.html) of the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center, which was founded in Belgium (a country with traditionally close links to the Congo), has also changed ie. "The central African countries of Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and their neighbours used to be the source of significant tonnages. But civil war, plundering of national parks and exporting of minerals, diamonds and other natural resources to provide funding of militias has caused the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center to call on its members to take care to obtain their raw materials from lawful sources. Harm, or the threat of harm, to local people, wildlife or the environment is unacceptable."

For economic, rather than ethical reasons, a shift is also being seen from traditional sources such as Australia, towards new suppliers (http://www.mbendi.co.za/indy/ming/othr/p0000.htm) such as Egypt. In part this was brought about by the bankruptcy of the world's biggest supplier, Australia's Sons of Gwalia.

See also: List of minerals

External links

de:Coltan nl:Coltan es:Coltan fr:Coltan

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