The New Conflict Diamond? Coltan, Tantalum and The PlayStation War

I was spurred to blog about the PlayStation War in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after reading an article on Yahoo! Games.  (And a brief aside – the blog is posted on 5 Minutes for Going Green – a great new site, sister to 5 Minutes for Mom.  I’m proud to be part of the team – and I’ll get a better blog up on it soon.)

Gorilla and baby gorillaIf you don’t feel like going over and checking out the blog, here’s a brief summary:  coltan is refined into tantalum, which is used in lots of electronics because it can hold a lot of electrical charge without getting hot.  DRC has the largest reserve of coltan in the world – about 65% of the world’s reserve – although Australia is currently the largest source.  When PlayStation 2 debuted and worldwide demand was high, the price of coltan skyrocketed – from $49 per pound to $275.  That let Rwanda militias to start stealing coltan from the DRC, and using it to fund the ongoing heinous war. 

Okay, so most of us are familiar with conflict diamonds, but so far, not one person I’ve talked to even knows what coltan is, let alone why it is an issue, what it has to do with Rwanda and the DRC, or how it connects to PlayStation and modern electronics.  So I’m doing my best to educate, hence this post.

So you might not care all that much, but if you are buying a new piece of electronic wonder, see if you can find out whether it has tantulum.  Even better, if it does, demand certification that it was acquired ethically.


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