Thursday, July 24, 2008

COLTAN: The Other "Blood Diamond"

If you don't know what Coltan is, you really need to find out. Unfortunately, it was something I barely found out about just a couple years ago in college.

I was pleased to randomly come across a little Yahoo article about Coltan, a very unique metal that is essential to all electronic devices. Yes, it is in your phone, your computer, and a lot of other stuff close to us, including our Play Stations.

Unfortunately, the atrocious reality of Coltan is not nearly publicized enough, even though it is essential to the Western world.

From Yahoo:
According to a report by activist site Toward Freedom, for the past decade the search for a rare metal necessary in the manufacturing of Sony's Playstation 2 game console has fueled a brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

...the demand for coltan prompted Rwandan military groups and western mining companies to plunder hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the rare metal, often by forcing prisoners-of-war and even children to work in the country's coltan mines.

Every day millions of children are forced to crawl into underground mines on their hands and knees to dig for the essential raw material, coltan, to make electronic gadgets like cell phones, iPods, laptop computers, play stations, wireless systems, DVD players, blackberries and pagers possible.

These technologically advanced toys are given life from capacitors, which are made from coltan, dug up from dangerous mines by children, under age 10.

The illegal trafficking of coltan in the Congo, has made thousands of children labourers. They work from sunrise to after dark digging with their calloused little hands into the earth to remove the raw material to be traded on the black market for US $400 a pound.

This is a really complicated issue--we got race, class, globalization, human rights issues, capitalism, and a whole lot of other stuff implicated in this Coltan business. As controversial as Marx is, right now his Fetishism of Commodities is first on my mind. We really need to know the history that is hidden within our commodified products.

1 comment:

  1. Sara,

    Thank you for spreading the word about coltan and the conflict in the Congo. Your post is yet another step in Breaking the Silence about the nearly 6 million Black folks who have died in the Congo since 1996 because of the scramble for Congo's immense wealth. Hopefully you can join students in 100 countries and 1,000 campuses in Breaking the Silence around the Congo in October 2008. Learn more here