News: Did your laptop cause the war in Congo?

Often people relate to ethnic differences when trying to explain the cause of the war in Congo. Others blame the break down of any law-and-order system, in a free-for-all society where "the one with the gun, rules".

The root cause of the conflict might be closer to home. You might be staring at it: your laptop...

Coltan, or "columbite-tantalite" is a unique metal used in the batteries of small electronics: your iPod, cell phone, pager, and laptop use it.

Eastern Congo, where fighting has recently taken a dramatic upswing, is one of the best places in the world to mine Coltan.

Coltan, just like other minerals in Eastern DRC, are mined in pretty much the same way gold used to be mined in the 19th century during The Goldrush in California. Except that in DRC, often children are the miners. The mines are mostly ruled by the warring fractions, or entities protected by the warring fractions with DRC's neighbours Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi smuggling the Coltan out of DRC.

By one estimate, the Rwandan army made at least US$250 million over a period of 18 months through the sale of coltan, while there is no Coltan mining in Rwanda, so go figure. (Full)

It is now said that competition over Coltan mines between the governments of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and a panoply of armed groups in eastern Congo helped fuel a civil war in Congo that has claimed over 4 million lives over the past decade.

Discovered via UN Dispatch


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