Democratic Republic of Congo
The global supply of Coltan has been an issue of media attention over the last fifteen years. As electronic capacitor demand grew in the mid-90's, so did the demand and price for Coltan ore. The majority of global resources are located in Africa, specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its neighboring country Rwanda. Approximately 80% of global resources are located in these two African countries, potentially creating an economic boom for national GDP's, which would provide the impoverished people with a modern first world standard of living. Unfortunately in such unregulated territory, the rich coltan mines are under the control of organized militant groups, who are illegally mining the rare metallic ore for the benefit of the organization’s leaders, and at the expense of the men, women and children who are forced to work in the illegal operation.
Under militant conditions, the Coltan mining operations are primitive to say the least. Miners are ill-equipped, ill-trained and are subject to appalling working conditions, where casualties caused by safety neglect are barely recorded as a number. Once mined, the metallic ore enters the supply chain on both the open market, but more commonly flows towards the more lucrative black market traders for duty avoiding purposes.
The DRC government are fully aware of the illegal activities that plague the nation. Taking control of the industry would act as a humanitarian catalyst towards achieving livelihood transformations from the present survival situation, to one that results in improved sustainability. To put it simply, governmental control of the Coltan mining trade would create regulated working conditions, generate a sufficient taxation structure to recycle the earnings into the development of infrastructure, housing and schools. Gaining legal control of the industry has created civil war like conditions, as the government rally to resolve the issues, the militants have strengthened their defensive operation using the financial proceeds from their mining activities.
Civil war has been the face of the DRC since the 1960's. Dictatorships, power struggles and military coup's, have been the scourge of national development over the years. Such social unrest has created mass corruption, which is so deeply-rooted within the culture of the country, that illegal activity spreads from senior governmental officials, to military leaders and through to the civilians who have learned to play the same game as a means to daily survival. To learn more on how the situation in the DRC affects global coltan supply, click here.