What is Coltan?
Coltan is short for Columbite-tantalite – a black tar-like mineral found in major quantities in the
Congo. The Congo possesses 64 percent of the world’s reserves of coltan. When coltan is refined
it becomes a heat resistant powder that can hold a high electric charge. The properties of refined
coltan are vital elements in creating devices that store energy or capacitors, which are used in a
vast array of small electronic devices, especially in mobile phones, laptop computers, pagers, and
other electronic devices.
Foreign Corporate exploitation
Over the past 14 years, foreign corporations have been deeply involved in the exploitation of
coltan in the Congo. The coltan mined by rebels and neighboring countries (Rwanda, Uganda &
Burundi) is sold to multi-national corporations. The United Nations (UN), in four studeis from
2001 – 2003, implicated several companies in sourcing coltan from the Congo and say that these
companies serve as “the engine of the conflict in the DRC.” Major U. S. players identified by the
UN Studies include: Cabot Corporation, Boston, MA; OM Group, Cleveland, Ohio; AVX,
Myrtle Beach, SC; Eagle Wings Resources International, Ohio; Trinitech International, Ohio;
Kemet Electronics Corporation, Greenville, SC; & Vishay Sprague. Malvern, PA.
Corporations from other countries have been a part of the coltan exploitation chain. These
companies include but are not limited to Germany’s HC Starc and EPCOS, China’s Nigncxia, and
Belgium’s George Forrest International.
Once the coltan is processed and converted to capacitors, it is then sold to companies such as
Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Alcatel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard , IBM, Lucent, Ericsson and Sony for
use in a wide assortment of everyday products ranging from cell phones to computer chips and
What are some of the uses of coltan in modern society?
• Laptop computers
• Cellular phones
• Jet engines
• Cutting tools
• Camera lenses
• X-ray film
• Ink jet printers
• Hearing aids
• Airbag protection systems
• Ignition and motor control modules, GPS,
ABS systems in automobiles
• Game consoles such as playstation, xbox
• Video cameras
• Digital still cameras
• Prosthetic devices for humans – hips, plates
in the skull, also mesh to repair bone
removed after damage by cancer
From Friends of the Congo