Coltan mining facts

Coltan (short for columbite-tantalite) is a valuable metal ore from which the elements niobium (formerly known as “columbium”) and tantalum are extracted.

The metals extracted from coltan are used for the technology in our phones, computers and games consoles. Unfortunately because it is so valuable coltan is at the centre of conflicts and illegal activities that affect millions of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Illegal mining exploits child labour as well as destroying the habitats of many species such as chimpanzees and gorillas that are already in grave danger due to poaching and deforestation.

Extraction of coltan

Much of the world’s coltan used in our everyday technology is mined in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an area where ongoing conflict has seen millions of people displaced from their home or killed (more information here). The extraction of coltan in the area of  the famous National Park Kahuzi-Biega also affects the already endangered populations of chimpanzees and gorillas.

Mobile phone manufacturing

Our high demand for coltan, partly caused by the ongoing purchase and replacement mobile phones, increases the price of this rare metal ore and leads to conflicts, child labour, the killing of chimpanzees, gorillas and many other species and degradation of their environment. At the same time, our increasing technological waste pollutes our environment. A good first step is to reduce our consumption and learn to recycle.



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