Coltan is inside every smart phone
Coltan is inside every smart phone

The Illicit Trade of Coltan

Five things you need to know about coltan

It’s used by almost everybody in smart phones and consumer electronics, and there is no simple way to keep conflict coltan out of the stream of legitimate minerals used by manufacturers.

1. It’s used by almost everybody — in mobile phones, electric cars and a wide array of consumer electronic devices; it is in optical and medical equipment. As new technologies emerge and produce new devices, demand will grow. There is no ready substitute.

2. Coltan’s ability to hold and move electrical signals, and its conductive ability in extreme temperatures, makes it ideal for smart bomb guidance controls. Security analysts say it is a strategic mineral.

3. War-torn Central Africa supplies about a fourth of the world market as production declines in Australia, the previous world leader. Most Central African coltan is considered conflict mineral because mining areas are controlled by armed factions and organized crime. It’s the same in the South American jungles where Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil meet and where officials say they’ve found vast coltan reserves.

4. There is no simple way to keep conflict coltan out of the stream of legitimate minerals used by manufacturers. It doesn’t have “geo-fingerprints” like conflict diamonds.

5. Controlling the flow of conflict coltan involves comprehensive action by governments, industry and activists. But that’s difficult: U.S. and European firms are looking at certification of coltan, but since manufacturers in China and India use the bulk of the world’s supply, certification efforts will fail if those countries do not participate.

Read more
Inside The Illicit Trade of Coltan
Colombia’s black-market coltan tied to drug traffickers, paramilitaries
March 4, 2012 — Illicit mining thrives in hot spot of Colombia’s Amazon, tucked in a corner infamous for drug smugglers and armed paramilitaries and well out of the view of police patrols looking for traffickers.
Inside The Illicit Trade of Coltan
Venezuela emerges as new source of ‘conflict’ minerals
Black-market coltan likely making its way to high-tech manufacturers’ supply; it’s used in everything from smart phones to smart bombs.
Inside The Illicit Trade of Coltan
Video: Colombia’s black-market Coltan tied to drug traffickers, paramilitaries
March 14, 2012 — In this report for Colombia’s Noticias Uno, ICIJ reporter Ignacio Gómez investigates the growing illicit trade in strategic coltan mineral.