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The troublous columbite-tantalite

posted by Kate Vangeloff on Thu, Mar 10, 2011
in Our shows

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Mama Nadi:  “Six months ago it was just more black dirt.  I don’t get why everyone’s crawling over each other for it.”

Mr. Harari: “Well, my darling, in this damnable age of the mobile phone it’s become quite the precious ore, no?  And for whatever reason God has seen fit to bless your backward country with an abundance of it.”

From Ruined by Lynn Nottage, now playing through April 10.

Coltan close up 
So just what is coltan?  What sort of substance could possibly instigate so much violence and conflict? Could something as simple and seemingly innocuous as a mineral really be at the heart of a civil war?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Coltan is a black, metallic mineral found mainly in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is mined by digging craters into river basins and sifting through the mud to find settled ore. This work is all done by hand. Coltan’s unique ability to store an electrical charge and withstand high
levels of heat makes it an indispensible ingredient in the production of electronic capacitors, which, in turn, are vital to the production of first-world, consumer products such as cell phones, DVD players, video game systems, and computers. In other words, no coltan means no electronics. The exportation of coltan has been cited as a main source of financing for the civil war in the Congo, which has claimed the lives of over 5.4 million people.

Coltan mining pic 
 It appears that the plight of the Chinese workers at Shenzhen depicted in Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs doesn’t represent the only “blood between the keys” found in our beloved electronic devices.


Data Base on Coltant is here

M.SundaraRajan | Thu, May 19, 2011

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