What is Blue Gold! and why have people gone to great lengths to keep information about it away from the general public? In the picture above is Coltan, a relatively scarce mineral used for the industry of microelectronics, which has revolutionized modern technology.
Coltan is known in the technology business as, Tantalite the main component in a Tantalum capacitor, used in too many electrical products to mention, Tantalum is also one of the main components in a mobile cell phone, some refer to it as Blue Gold. It is fundamental for the development of new technologies such as: laptops, cell phones (Iphone, Android), video devices, sound devices, game consoles, GPS, smart weapons, televisions, medicine (implants), the aerospace industry and magnetic levitation, among others. There is great economic and strategic interest from the major world powers to control the supply of Coltan, for the advancement of the electronics, aerospace and armaments industry. A quote from Fortune part of Time Inc states:
Tantalum is a rare element in high demand. To control tantalum is to control a key part of the 21st-century supply chain. Fortune Magazine
All of this sounds a bit ominous but here are a few facts, Coltan has been in huge demand since the 90's and the price has risen by more than 600% and this will continue to rise! 60-80% of the world’s Coltan supply is mined in Africa and more specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A study conducted by the French Ecole de Guerre Economique (EGC), indicated that Europe and the United States are totally dependent on foreign reserves of this mineral, since investigations world-wide, indicate the biggest Coltan reserves are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
So many hear of Congo's plight, but few really understand the cause and why it has continued. DRC is the second largest country in Africa and has long been in conflict because of its vast mineral reserves. There is much to say about the plight of this amazing country but one thing springs to mind, how have manufacturers managed to acquire vast amounts of this, conflict mineral? There are so many stories about smuggling but let’s face it...the quantities needed to supply the western world for their new gadgets and toys, would be far too much for even the most industrious smuggler to supply.
Discovery of Coltan
A man by the name of Kalegelege found this black/blue stone in the riverbeds of the DRC and used it to sharpen his working tools, this would later be identified as Coltan. This mineral was commercially understood and utilized by a Swedish chemist, Andres Gustaf Ekenberg in 1802. Word spread about its unique properties and where it was found which caused the Coltan Rush. The population in Kisengo in the DRC, where it was found increased dramatically from the opportunities to mine it. Soldiers and rebels began to arrive and set up camps near mines, causing insecurity. Kisengo's mine was closed in order to stop production, this led Coltan to be categorized as a conflict mineral, which later restricted trade.
There is no doubt that the introduction of the military to the mining situation in the DRC has caused major upset, tragedy and death - we also hear of poor leadership, being part of the cause. However, somewhere there is a greedy set of men/women that have corrupted the system in order to profit significantly from the chaos and perceived mismanaged infrastructure, supporting the acquisition, sale and distribution globally of Coltan.
To Cut a Long Story Short
One thing is for sure... The revolution of modern technology in this case has come at a high cost to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I urge you all, as responsible, upwardly mobile, progressive, people, to keep one commercial eye focused on this market and two eyes and your minds, on the life threatening circumstances, surrounding the Congolese people. Large corporations benefiting from this conflict mineral, need to demonstrate responsible policies surrounding the mining and export of Coltan. These circumstances in Africa, sound all too familiar, where human life and basic human rights are violated, all for the benefit of us, in the western world.
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