Coltan, short for Columbite - tantalite is a metallic ore consisting of NioBium and Tantalum. Eighty percent of the world's known coltan is in Africa. Its strength, high density, and chemical properties make it a valuable metal used in the manufacture of capacitators in high-tech and medical devices, including cell phones, game consoles, and computer chips. After being refined, it essentially becomes a heat resistant powder, metallic Tantalum that stores electrical charge. Of the 525 tons of tantalum used in the United States in 1998, sixty percent was used in tantalum capacitators. Therefore, coltan is an imperative part in capacitors that control current flows in circuit boards of numerous consumer products. It is also used in the production of steel varieties that have high heat tolerances such those used in the engines of aircraft

The majority of the reserves is located in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). The largest producer of coltan is Australia. The Wodgina mine in Western Australia produces about 150,000 tons annually. They are also extracted in Brazil, Canada, and China. The ways to collect coltan are somewhat primitive. First, the local miners cut down a patch of the rainforest. Next, they undercut the rooted vegetation, and then they extract all the unwanted dirt and rocks by washing their lootings in a river. Fortunately for the armed groups in the local area, they are taking advantage of easily getting their hands on coltan. It simply doesn't require neither any knowledge of modern technology nor be an erudite expertise on minerals.

The yearning for coltan increased dramactically during the 1990s as international demand for electronic devices reached an all time high in 2000. The 'gold rush for coltan' caused the cost of this mineral correspondingly rose to US$365 per pound in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. There was a 38 percent increase in consumption of coltan in 2000 relative to 1999 before the technology industry crashed in 2001. Yet, it was predicted that the demand for coltan would continue to grow by 10 to 20 percent per year. Unfortunately, legitimate mining operations are frequently confused with illegal rebel operations; therefore, the source of the coltan is always unsure. The trading route for it from Central Africa to foreign markets includes many intermediaries along the way. The newly-elected Alliance for the Presidential Majority (AMP) government made positive influence by having electronics companies reject coltan from anywhere in Central Africa. There are other companies including American-based Kemet that have specifically requested certification that their purchases of the mineral is not from DRC or any neighboring countries.


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