Tantalum: A Valuable Ore Essay

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Coltan is a tantalum-bearing ore that is very rare, valuable and highly sought all over the world (Hayes & Burge 2003: 11). Tantalum has double the density of steel and is extremely resistant to heat and corrosion (Hayes & Burge 2003: 11). In the majority of high-tech electronics such as computers, mobile phones, and game consoles, it is used as capacitors or super-alloys to conduct electric charges in these electronic equipments (Bleischwitz et al. 2012: 20). Almost a decade ago, Australia was the leading country responsible for 60% of the world’s tantalum production (Hayes & Burge 2003: 11). However, in 2008, the largest Australian tantalum producer called Talison, faced a financial crisis and suffered a downfall in the global market …show more content…

2012: 21). The country is very rich in coltan holding approximately 80% of the world’s coltan reserves and as a result, is also associated as a “blood diamond of the digital age” (Mantz 2008: 36). The production of Tantalum in the Kivus region began around the same time as the first year Congo war in 1996 (Jackson 2003: 7). Coltan became a highly sought commodity beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the sudden global demand for cellular devices and Sony PlayStations (Mantz 2008: 36). This resulted in a “Klondike-style” rush within the DRC where people began to surface-mine coltan in the World Heritage Site National Parks - controlled by rebel-armed groups (Hayes & Burge 2003: 11). Majority of the people employed in the coltan mining industry are impoverished and low-skilled with about 8-10 million people (roughly 16% of the DRC population) dependant on this activity for survival (Bleischwitz et al 2012: 11). On top of earning only about $1-5 USD per day, most of these miners are also in dire debt to local traders and higher-level authorities (Bleischwitz et al 2012: 11). Armed conflict, poverty, and economic instability force most of the people of the DRC into the mining industry (Garrett & Lintzer 2010: 401). Coltan mining in the Congo has thus, caused death to become a currency in order for efficient capital flow within the group of digital distributors and investors (Mantz 2008: 37). Social and Political Impacts Corruption and violence

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