Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample

Type of paper: Case Study

Topic: Mining, Soil, Environment, Conflict, Company, America, Internet, Telephone

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/11/29

“ ’It’s possible that two children died so that you could have that mobile phone,’ says Jean-Bertin, a 34-year-old Congolese activist who wants to end the “absolute silence” around the crimes committed in his country to exploit strategic raw materials like coltan.” (Benitez, 2012) The need for coltan to mass produce electronics has resulted in heinous living conditions for millions of Africans. The high demand for this raw material has resulted in terrible conflicts and death. Not only has the increase in the production of electronics resulted in inhumane treatment of Africans, it has also severely hurt the environment. The case study on the coltan mines in Africa illustrates how science concludes that mining can degrade the environment, indicates the dire need for policies to protect the environment and encourages analysis of more research.
Coltan, one of the many nonrenewable minerals humans extract from the earth, is a combination of columbite and tantalum. The science behind the extraction of these minerals is referred to as mining. Mining is justified by many due to the necessity of certain minerals in creating items humans use on an everyday basis. Minerals are used in the production of items such as wall paint, jewelry, cosmetics and aluminum. The demand for coltan has increased exponentially as the popularity of electronics from cell phones to lap tops to tablets has skyrocketed. As the need for coltan has risen, the dire effects mining has on the environment have followed suit. “Environmental damage extends from animals, plants, and trees to the land itself. Mining has caused significant land erosion and severe pollution of lakes and rivers. Coltan is toxic, and the lack of standards in its production has increased the damage to the local environment exponentially.” (Magma Coltan, 2012). The method used to mine coltan is placer mining. Miners procure materials using running water. This is usually done in riverbeds which results in devastating effects on the environment. The tools used to mine can leave debris in the streams which destroys the ability for wild life to live in the habitat. Stream banks are disturbed to the point that erosion is accelerated. Plant life within the mining area is harmed and potentially destroyed. In addition, the needs of the people mining wreaks havoc on the animal population surrounding the mining site. “Communities of miners live deep in the forest, using up natural resources such as wood for heat and shelter, and hunting for ‘bushmeat’. Entire populations of gorillas hunted for food have caused significant biodiversity loss; protected species, including elephants, have also been killed by miners for food.” (Magma Coltan, 2012). Environmental science has shown that the mining used in the coltan mines in Africa is having a horrific impact on the earth as well as on humans. It is necessary to implement extensive policies to ensure the environment and humans are protected.
There is a dire need for increased policies to reduce the devastating impact the current approach to coltan mining has on both human nature and the environment. According to Mary Beth Sheridan, the United States made a step in the right direction in 2010 when President Obama signed a financial regulation bill into law that included a passage meant to drive positive change in coltan mining. “The passage, tucked into the bill's ‘Miscellaneous Provisions,’ will require thousands of U.S. companies to disclose what steps they are taking to ensure that their products, including laptops, cellphones and medical devices, don't contain ‘conflict minerals’ from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sale of such minerals has fueled a nearly 15-year war that has been marked by a horrific epidemic of sexual violence.” (Sheridan, 2010) While this measure is certainly better than nothing, it is not nearly enough. This approach relies solely on an increased awareness within America of the atrocities being committed in Africa as well as a desire within Americans to not participate in the collusion of those acts. “‘The consequence is a market-driven one. Consumers can make their choices. Do they want their electronic products to be funding gang rape in central Africa? I don't think most Americans would want that,’ said Rory Anderson of the World Vision humanitarian group, which has been pushing for the legislation.” (Sheridan, 2010) The only repercussion the people who mistreat humans and the environment in their crusade to make money off of coltan mining is the potential of savvy Americans paying enough attention to not buy their products. More is needed for real positive change to occur. That being said, there are many challenges in implementing stricter policies in coltan mining. “Robert Hormats, the undersecretary of state for economic affairs, said in an interview that tracing the source of minerals is much more complicated than tracing the source of diamonds. For one thing, he said, diamonds "aren't melted down." In addition, the rebels sometimes gain or lose control over mines.” (Sheridan, 2010) While these challenges are daunting, good people are doing their best to better manage the serious problems the current coltan mining practices result in. “Still, the State and Treasury departments are examining possible sanctions against U.S. companies that use "conflict minerals. ‘We need to toughen up. Sanctions is one way,’ said Hormats, who has been working with industry to improve accountability.” (Sheridan, 2010). Increasing the punishment from potential backlash from the public to restrictions that require a fine if broken would be a powerful move in the direction of positive change. For change to happen, there must be more analysis on the research conducted to provide improved options for mining.
A platform that is making tremendous progress in research for improved options in mining is a group known as Solutions for Hope. “Solutions for Hope is a platform that supports companies, civil society organizations, and governments working together to responsibly source minerals from regions experiencing conflict where market access is limited by opaque supply chains. The program manages risk for participating companies and offers recognition for participation.” ( According to this group’s website, Motorola and AVX joined forces in 2011 to “test the feasibility of responsible, traceable sourcing of tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to promote economic stability of the area.” The results of this test were encouraging. The website states: “Over the past 3 years, the program successfully demonstrated the following: It is feasible for downstream companies to establish supply chains originating with conflict-free mines in regions impacted by conflict; these supply chains can be independently validated as conflict-free, thus mitigating risks of in-region sourcing; and leaders from civil society support responsible sourcing from regions experiencing conflict and recognizes companies participating in SfH, as a complement to regulatory initiatives focused on transparency.” As it has now been established that it is possible to receive coltan from groups that are not participating in inhumane practices it is much more realistic for American companies to limit business relationships accordingly. It is also fair to surmise that a group who values non-participation in the bloody human conflict will also value treating the environment with as much respect as possible. It is incredibly beneficial to understand that supply chains can be independently validated as conflict-free. Corruption is so wide spread in Africa it would be very easy for those in power to manipulate information. As these claims have been independently validated, it can be trusted that these supply chains are indeed conflict-free – such a step in necessary to ensure real, positive, forward motion. It is also imperative for American companies to have the support of leaders from civil society who recognize companies participating in this collaboration and who value transparency. Without the support of local leaders the research completed could not be used for implementation of improved practices. Another indication of the positive results stemming from the research into possible improvements for the approach to coltan mining is the response by companies such as Coltan Mining Limited. According to their website, the mission of CM LTD is as follows “Coltan Mining Limited supplies and processes various minerals and metal ores for extensive industries. Also some of our processed solid minerals are used for bond markets, LME, LMBA and others. We also invest in sustainable infrastructure projects, renewable energy, roads, hospitals, schools and housing in Africa and Latin America.” ( Coltan Mining Limited is one of the many American companies that relies on the results of coltan mining. It is clear the research into improving the conditions of coltan mining has had an impact on this company: “Coltan Mining Limited is committed to social responsibility in the areas we mine that’s why we have invested in infrastructure for local indigenous people also providing education and apprenticeships for eventual employment. Environmental health is important as mining can have negative impacts on land if not properly managed and made sustainable. We continue to adhere to strict government legislation and are members of various NGO's who focus on sustainability and growth in mining sector.” ( Due to the combination of the work done by America legislators to require transparency from companies that use coltan and leadership decisions made by Motorola and AVX to research opportunities for improvement inroads toward improvement for coltan mining are being made. These inroads provide a glimmer of hope for the humans impacted by the ugly conflict that has resulted from coltan mining and sustaining our relationship with mother-nature.
Electronics such as cell phones, lap tops, Blackberries and tablets are not going out of fashion any time soon. As western society continues to become more and more reliant on these items the demand for coltan will not abate. Taking this pattern into consideration, it is essential for those in western civilizations to engage in an increased interest in the coltan mining industry. While improvements have been made through some legislation and research they have more impact on the human aspect of the issue than on the environmental. Sooner or later these precious minerals will run out. Perhaps the change that really needs to take place is a reconsideration of the values those in western civilization hold dear. Do people really need all the materials they are consuming? It is truly necessary for people to have a tablet AND a laptop AND a Blackberry AND a cell phone? Perhaps what is needed is a wake-up call to remind those in western civilization of the joy life with minimal electronics can provide. Only then will the environment truly be safe from the plundering the western consumerist mentality has driven.


Benitez, Ines. (9/12/2012). “Two Children May Have Died for You to Have Your Mobile Phone”. Inter Press Service News Agency. Retrieved from
Sheridan, Mary Beth. (7/21/2011). “U.S. Financial Reform Bill also Targets ‘Conflict Minerals from Congo”. Washington Post. Retrieved from
(9/20/2012). “The True Cost of Unsustainable Coltan Mining”. Magma Coltan: Evolving the Right Way. Retrieved from
(2010). “What We Do”, “Social Responsibility”. Coltan Mining Limited website. Retrieved from
(2014). “A Platform to Support Responsible Sourcing, Peacebuilding, and Community Development”. Solutions for Hope website. Retrieved from

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2020, November, 29) Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from
"Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample." WePapers, 29 Nov. 2020, Accessed 28 September 2023.
WePapers. 2020. Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample., viewed September 28 2023, <>
WePapers. Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample. [Internet]. November 2020. [Accessed September 28, 2023]. Available from:
"Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample." WePapers, Nov 29, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2023.
WePapers. 2020. "Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved September 28, 2023. (
"Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 29-Nov-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-Sep-2023].
Free Coltan Mines In Africa Case Study Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 29, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now