Coltan, Congo and Conflict

The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) is launching a new report today, Coltan, Congo and Conflict. The report evaluates the links between coltan trade and violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and examines the potential for recent legislation to break such links and reduce conflict. The main conclusion of the report is that policy initiatives aimed at reducing the trade of minerals from conflict regions are likely to have limited effectiveness.
In the early 2000s, tantalum – a rare metal used in modern consumer electronics – suddenly moved into a wide public spotlight. Effective NGO campaigns using catchy slogans, such as “No blood on my mobile”, claimed that consumer demand in the West for mobile phones, computers, game consoles and other electronic devices, all of which contain small amounts of tantalum, fueled mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the eyes of the general public, tantalum and coltan, a tantalum-bearing ore that is mined in the DRC, became the most visible symbol of the link between the deadly conflict in the DRC, the exploitation of mineral resources.


The main conclusions of the report are:

  • The importance of coltan as a source of revenue for armed groups is often exaggerated. With an exception of a short-lived coltan boom in 2000-2001, it was never the substantial source of funding for armed groups.
  • Although armed groups have profited from Congo’s mineral wealth, coltan was not the main instigator of the conflict in the DRC and was at most a contributing factor.
  • Many policy initiatives aimed at breaking the link between mining, mineral trade, and conflict, including Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act in the U.S., suffer from problems related to both effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Ending the violence requires a long-term and comprehensive approach that combines military, political and economic efforts, with a particular emphasis on building capable and legitimate institutions, restoring the state’s monopoly on violence and promoting economic development that is not based on illegal activities.

This HCSS report has been produced in collaboration with the Bundesanstalt fur Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Raw Materials Group (RMG), and Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), as part of the wider POLINARES project. POLINARES aims to explore the future challenges facing access to fossil fuels and mineral resources, and is funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme.


Press release – The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)


Report: Coltan, Congo and Conflict


Blutige Handys – Die unmenschliche Coltan-Gewinnung
Für die Produktion von Handys braucht man spezielle Mineralien, wie Coltan. Coltan wird im Ostkongo oft von Kindern aus ungesicherten Minen geholt. Das Geld aus dem Verkauf finanziert einen Krieg, der schon 15 Jahre dauert und bis heute fünf Millionen Menschen getötet hat. Von all dem wollen die Mobilfunkunternehmen nichts wissen. Der Autor Frank Piasecki Poulsen hat sich für die story auf eine lebensgefährliche Suche in die Coltan-Minen im Kongo gemacht. Er ist in eine Mine hinabgestiegen, in der Kinder oft Tage in den dunklen Tunneln graben und leben. Der Lohn: ein paar Cent. Die Gewinne aus dem Geschäft mit Coltan stecken andere ein. Poulsen konfrontiert Mobilfunkunternehmen mit seinen Aufnahmen und Erfahrungen. Er fragt, wer von den katastrophalen Bedingungen weiß, wer damit einen Krieg finanziert und warum dagegen nichts getan wird.



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