Coltan and Congo mayhem
October 26, 2008 4:28 PM   Subscribe

"Blood phones" are now upgraded to include a gorilla threat. The immediate problem is a rare earth found mostly in the Congo, called coltan (columbite-tantalite) and is locally worth digging up streams all day for (followed by the usual practice of jungle deforestation and the market for endangered bushmeat). Tantalum is especially used in mobile electronic devices as pinhead capacitors, with alternatives lacking. Previously on Metafilter.

Note that Tantalum is named for that mythical fated one, Tantalus, oddly cursed to never get what he reaches for, or to always have a stone hang dangerously over his head.
posted by Brian B. (31 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: seems discredited and out-of-date, plus all the fighting with everyone commenting on your post. -- mathowie



 
The first link is dripping with too much unqualified shock-value for me to take seriously. Statements like "the tantalum-coltan we're selling you comes covered in rapes and bloodshed" don't lend it credibility. Also, the article seems to be confusing a number of different crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo with one another and linking them all to this "coltan" mineral.

Unfortunately it fails to mention that the tantalum yielded by refining coltan is not used only in cell phones. It is in the computer you're viewing this on right now and the majority of complex electronics products in the world. Also -- Australia is the world's largest producer, not the DRC.

The second article has nothing to do with coltan and is entirely unrelated, in no way linking the threat to gorillas to coltan.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to flag this for being alarmist and poorly researched.
posted by MaxK at 4:48 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The first link is dripping with too much unqualified shock-value for me to take seriously. Statements like "the tantalum-coltan we're selling you comes covered in rapes and bloodshed" don't lend it credibility. Also, the article seems to be confusing a number of different crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo with one another and linking them all to this "coltan" mineral.

That is one bizarre case of denial there. A material being linked to everything that goes wrong in the Congo is not suspicious at all, as you claim.

Unfortunately it fails to mention that the tantalum yielded by refining coltan is not used only in cell phones. It is in the computer you're viewing this on right now and the majority of complex electronics products in the world. Also -- Australia is the world's largest producer, not the DRC.

No, but cellphones and wireless gear are it's most likely use, over time. Are we going to blame people with pacemakers instead? That stupid hypocrisy defense is fallacious by the way.

The second article has nothing to do with coltan and is entirely unrelated, in no way linking the threat to gorillas to coltan.

That was not an article on coltan, but on gorillas and the civil war linked to coltan in other articles. Thank goodness for metafilter to fill in the blanks for all the dumbasses.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to flag this for being alarmist and poorly researched.

Or, you just prove it wrong if you had any talent.
posted by Brian B. at 5:01 PM on October 26, 2008


IM IN UR PHONE KILLIN YR G0RILLAS
posted by Sys Rq at 5:04 PM on October 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Australia is the world's largest producer, not the DRC

From the "mobile electronic" (cellular-news) link in the FPP: 80% of the world's known coltan supply is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which the UN says is subject to "highly organized and systematic exploitation."
posted by Brian B. at 5:04 PM on October 26, 2008


As the problems of managing food, technology, and the environment become more complex, we seek leaders with smaller and smaller capacities for dealing with such complexity. I hope we can all find leaders who will help us work together to find solutions to the challenge of preserving nature while making life better for all humans. Apparently we're not doing well in that department.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:07 PM on October 26, 2008




Tantalum capacitors really, really ARE used in ALL consumer electronics.

I don't have the breakdown in front of me, but I suspect a large percentage of the world's tantalum today comes from recycled consumer electronics.

You people out there with more time can go research it for yourselves and report back to this thread. Please.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:13 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dammit, b1tr0t; thanks!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:13 PM on October 26, 2008


an example being the Democratic Republic of the Congo which the United States Geological Survey reports in its 2006 yearbook as having produced a little less than 1% of the world's tantalum for the past four years.

This is stupidly missing the point of the fact that Ta is in crazy demand past the point of Australian and Brazilian production. The fact remains that 80% of the world's known supply is in the Congo, virtually untapped on a large scale until recently. Also, your research should have informed you that nobody admits to using Congolese tantalum.
posted by Brian B. at 5:14 PM on October 26, 2008


The big red flag is that the most recent date in the "cellular-news" link is 2001. Try to get some more recent news before you let the outrage take over your higher brain functions.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:15 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the "mobile electronic" (cellular-news) link in the FPP: 80% of the world's known coltan supply is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which the UN says is subject to "highly organized and systematic exploitation."

And according to the Wikipedia link in the FPP: "The United States Geological Survey reports in its 2006 yearbook that the Democratic Republic of the Congo produces a little less than 1% of the world's tantalum"

Having the mineral does not equal production capacity. The DRC also has the world's largest known reserve of gold.

I'm not denying that there are problems in the DRC. Having had a large financial interest in the area in the recent past, however, I made it my business to know what was going on there. The majority of the problems linked in the first article are related to political strife, warring militias, illegal poaching, and all kinds of problems that have little or nothing to do with coltan. Making the arbitrary connection between those problems and the mineral coltan is misleading and irresponsible.

Also, I'll thank you to refrain from further ad hominem attacks.
posted by MaxK at 5:17 PM on October 26, 2008


Having the mineral does not equal production capacity.

I never mentioned production capacity, you did. You are now arguing with yourself it seems.
posted by Brian B. at 5:20 PM on October 26, 2008


Isn't coltan what Terminators are made out of?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 5:25 PM on October 26, 2008


Wow, moderate your own thread much?
posted by notsnot at 5:29 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


The big red flag is that the most recent date in the "cellular-news" link is 2001. Try to get some more recent news before you let the outrage take over your higher brain functions.

Yeah, according to the link the rare earth industry apparently agreed in 2001 to discourage tantalum mining in gorilla sites. Did you want this meeting to happen later or not at all?
posted by Brian B. at 5:30 PM on October 26, 2008


This thread needs more pinhead.... Zippy the Pinhead!
posted by Eekacat at 5:31 PM on October 26, 2008


Wow, moderate your own thread much?

I'm only answering those addressing me. If that bothers you, don't ask me, again.
posted by Brian B. at 5:31 PM on October 26, 2008


If by "answer" you mean "insult."
posted by Snyder at 5:33 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If by "answer" you mean "insult."

I don't charge extra for that.
posted by Brian B. at 5:36 PM on October 26, 2008


10/22/08: Demand for tantalum powder to decline
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:40 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't charge extra for that.

You negate and insult, and you do not discuss. No one is here to be lectured and hectored by you. If you're not interested in people critiquing your posts in any capacity, then you should not post here. Anything further about this should be in MeTa.
posted by Snyder at 5:44 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tantalum is indeed used in all electronics: DVDs, computers, game boxes, you name it. And typically the more power the box uses, the more tantalum you'll find. So you're high powered desktop that you are reading this on has several orders of magnitude more tantalum in it than your iPhone.

There are alternatives such polymer aluminum, ceramic, though I haven't heard of any industry wide call-out to use these alternatimves in order to save gorillas.
posted by eye of newt at 5:48 PM on October 26, 2008


If you're not interested in people critiquing your posts in any capacity, then you should not post here.

Same to each.

Tantalum is indeed used in all electronics: DVDs, computers, game boxes, you name it

All types? We're reading otherwise here, if you mean that it is used in every electronic device.
posted by Brian B. at 5:51 PM on October 26, 2008


All types? We're reading otherwise here, if you mean that it is used in every electronic device.

Dude, believe it, already. Tantalum caps (capacitors) are used primarily for high-density, low frequency power supply decoupling and low-frequency filtering in ALL consumer electronics.

Send me a picture of the guts of ANY consumer electronics device, and I'll show you where the tantalum caps are.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:01 PM on October 26, 2008


I'm here for an argument.
posted by Eekacat at 6:02 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Send me a picture of the guts of ANY consumer electronics device, and I'll show you where the tantalum caps are.

Or you could just post an explanation from a neutral source, like this one:

Small electronic devices, such as pagers and automotive electronics, generally use a tantalum capacitor. There are many types of tantalum capacitors, and each has a unique characteristic.

See the sidebar at the right, no mention of all electronics, although that is an ambiguous label which may refer to all types.
posted by Brian B. at 6:08 PM on October 26, 2008


Brilliant! citing a link farm!
posted by b1tr0t at 6:11 PM on October 26, 2008


your/you're...you know what I mean
posted by eye of newt at 6:12 PM on October 26, 2008


I keep thinking Star Trek... Mighty heavy stuff there.
posted by buzzman at 6:12 PM on October 26, 2008


Brilliant! citing a link farm!

I cited a business.com source that is begging people to consider using tantalum capacitors for their small scale electronics. This implies that they don't use them already. As usual, some people will complain.
posted by Brian B. at 6:14 PM on October 26, 2008


I cited a business.com source that is begging people to consider using tantalum capacitors for their small scale electronics. This implies that they don't use them already. As usual, some people will complain.

You really don't understand anything about business, engineering, or sourcing ... do you?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:18 PM on October 26, 2008


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