Coltan is the abbreviated name for the metallic ore Columbite-tantalite. When refined, the metal becomes a heat-resistant powder commonly known as Tantalum, with properties enabling the material to hold high electrical charges, thus making the material a vital component in the manufacturing of electronic capacitors.
The importance of electronic capacitors in todays world cannot be underestimated. Electronic capacitors are the vital elements that control the electrical current flow of all modern technology circuit boards. The capacitors made from Tantalum are used in almost all electrical devices such as cell phones, laptop computers, digital cameras, camcorders, hearing aids, pacemakers, ink jet printers, cars, and the list goes on. Simply put, any device that you own, which requires an electrical current to operate, has a Tantalum Capacitor derived from the raw material of Coltan ore.
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 the national GDP, 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 operations. Click to learn more on the 'Conflict Coltan War' in the DRC.