Day 176: Blood Coltan: African Conflict Mineral and the Solution of Equal Money Capitalism

© Alfons Rodríguez
Problem

I recently learned about a mineral called Coltan, short for Columbite-Tantalite, which is required for the production of Tantalum Capacitors which are used in almost every kind of electronic device. Coltan is best known for its use in the production of cell phones.

Where does Coltan come from? Currently Coltan is mined in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. The Democratic Republic of Congo holds at least 64% and possibly as much as 80% of the world's Coltan supply.

Here's a little recent history regarding the demand for Coltan and the Problem involved, from an article By Edoardo Totolo for ISN Security Watch:
"The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is extremely rich in Coltan (Columbite-Tantalite), a rare metallic ore used for the production of electronic goods of mass consumption, such as mobile phones, laptops and videogame consoles, whose profits have fueled the largest conflict in modern African history.
For over 10 years, companies in industrialized countries have purchased Coltan despite war and lawlessness in the DRC, and they became profitable sources of foreign currency for a multitude of state and non-state actors, including rebel forces, Rwandan and Ugandan governments (and their armies), licensed companies and poor communities with no employment opportunities.
The resulting power struggles over this valuable ore combined with the weakness of the Congolese state provoked conflict and political turmoil in the country. The war in the DRC has reached a level of complexity to the point that it has been renamed the “African World War,” having involved eight African nations and 25 rebel groups and caused the highest death toll since World War II.

Even though Coltan is not the only cause of the Congolese war, it has been a core problem with neighboring countries, Rwanda in particular. It is also a major source of revenue for rebel groups such as the Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP - a Tutsi rebel group responsible for the North Kivu war in October 2008) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) - a Hutu rebel group also responsible for the Rwandan genocide in 1994)." 
The demand for Coltan by western industries reached its peak at the end of 2000 when new technologies started being used for mobile phones and other electronic devices. According to Toward Freedom's John Lasker, high market prices were mainly related to the mass production of Sony Playstation II combined with a global shortage of supplies. Correspondingly, the price for Coltan rose dramatically: from US$30 per pound in 1999 to US$380 per pound in December 2000. 
High market prices provoked the so-called Coltan Fever. Entire communities in the eastern DRC became involved in Coltan mining; students dropped out of schools; farmers and shepherds left their lands and livestock in favor of artisanal mining activities.
Easy profits also attracted the interests of a multitude of rebel groups, militia and armies, which started looting the area's mineral wealth. After backing Congolese President Joseph Kabila in the first Congo war (1996-1998), Ugandan and Rwandan militia and military forces refused to leave the country and started exploiting the vast natural resources and smuggling them to their own countries. The UN stated in 2001 that the DRC was suffering a “systemic and systematic” looting of natural resources by foreign armies.
The report also accused over 100 western corporations of financing rebel groups and militias and therefore fuelling conflict. NGOs and activist groups started campaigns against these companies and the news appeared in the media for the first time. As a result, many giant corporations such as Nokia, Samsung and Motorola published specific corporate policies against the use of Congolese Coltan and are today buying, at least officially, from other producers in Australia, Canada and few other countries."
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?id=96390  
It is nearly impossible to control the supply chain, because there are so many different groups and individuals mining Coltan and selling it to trading companies in various quantities, and the warlords who lead the rebel groups also often take a percentage of the profits made by legal trading companies.

Marc-Oliver Herman, a Belgian activist and expert on the DRC, told ISN Security Watch:
"The trade has never stopped and it is still directly or indirectly linked to the financing of rebel groups. Even though corporations write in their websites that they do not buy Coltan in the DRC, these are only PR announcements that are impossible to implement."

So we have rebel groups murdering each other by the millions for control of Coltan mines just to make money, poor children leaving school to mine Coltan just to make money, and western industry unwilling to stop buying Coltan from these Conflict-ridden countries because the demand is so high - products must be made so money can be made. This is after all, a Consumer system where we're not just making the best, most reliable version of everything, we're not just making only essential products that benefit humanity -- this is a system of planned obsolescence where products are deliberately made to break so that consumers have to buy more. We're producing electronics continuously for no other reason that to keep releasing different styles, versions, upgrades, qualities -- all so that people can keep buying buying buying and the corporations can keep profitting.

Most of the people doing the actual mining don't even know what Coltan is used for, which indicates their level of poverty and exclusion from society.

On top of this, the environment and animals are also being destroyed in the process:
"Because of uncontrolled mining in the DRC, the land is being eroded and is polluting lakes and rivers, affecting the ecology of the region[citation needed].
The Eastern Mountain Gorilla's population has diminished as well. Miners are far from food sources and have been hunting gorillas.[29] The gorilla population has been seriously reduced and is now critically endangered. In Central and West Africa an estimated 3–5 million tons of so-called "bush meat" is obtained by killing wild animals (including gorillas) each year.[30]"
Watch the following videos for further reference:

Blood Coltan
The Real Mobile Phone Wars - DRC
Conflict Minerals, Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo

Solution

Equal Money Capitalism presents the solution to this problem on multiple levels.
  • Poverty and underdeveloped societal infrastructure in 'third world' countries will be eliminated through realigning the value of money to Life. Effective education will be established, and jobs and resources will be aligned with establishing the necessary facilities to support the entire population of each country. Instead of resources and labor being focused around the protection of profits for individuals to accumulate wealth, the Compassion Department will ensure corporate profits are aligned with supporting the entire population of 'third world' countries with the highest quality of life - both those who are able to contribute their labor toward establishing an effective society, and those who are unable to work. 
  • The only reason 'developing' countries exist is because it is not profitable to dedicate time and resources and labor to establishing equal development in all countries -- because corporations require poverty to exist so that cheap labor can be utilized to maximize profits, and military dominance can be used to gain control of resources in less powerful countries. In eliminating the survival problem and the need to accumulate profit at an individual level through ensuring profit is received Equally, we eliminate the starting point of war based on control of resources for survival.
  • The need for Coltan will fall dramatically, as by law every product must be built to last and planned obsolescence will be stopped. Superficial 'upgrades' to technology that are introduced purely for the sake of entertainment and style for profit will be eliminated from things like Computers and Cell phones, because the purpose of these products is to enhance Humanity's ability to communicate and express themselves and contribute their skills and the Earth's resources will not be wasted unnecessarily in the pursuit of consumerism.
  • The possibility of eliminating the need to mine the Earth for Coltan opens up, as through the elimination of the profit-motive as survival, engineers will be able to work together to develop alternatives. If mining is still required, the scope will be far less, and machines will be developed and implemented to do all necessary mining.
Rewards

  • Everyone will enjoy the benefits of only long lasting, highest quality technology such as cell phones and computers, and we'll be able to use these products knowing no one was murdered in their production.
  • Children will receive effective education and later in life will have access to employment that suits their skills and self expression. No one will be forced by survival to work in mines.
  • During the implementation of EMC, conflict-mineral activists and journalists will be able to contribute their knowledge and experience to the practical aspects of the solution.
  • The environment will be able to restore itself, and animals will be able to re-establish themselves.

For further research into the principles and practical policies involved in the Equal Money Capitalism solution, visit the Economist's Journey to Life Equal Money Capitalism Timeline. http://economistjourneytolife.blogspot.com/p/emc.html



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