>> Saturday, July 18, 2009
Coltan is something you may not have heard of. This is surprising because it is around you more than you think. It is a metallic or used in the production of capacitors... primarily the kind used in cell phones, video game systems, and laptops. Coltan is mined by hand in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If you remember some of my other posts, this is where many of the protected gorillas live. In fact, the mines are located in rebel-controlled areas in the National Parks. Not only that, but coltan is in incredibly high demand as we get more connected as a global market, making it valuable to both sides of the fight occurring in DRC. Some organizations and analysts have even gone so far as to state that coltan is at the center of this conflict because, besides being an ethnic war, it is also a war over resources.
Since the conflict began in 1998, many farmers were pushed off their land and sought jobs in the mines. In order to access more of the mines, they have gotten rid of valuable habitat and have killed off African elephants and eastern lowland gorillas. Both are protected species, but with a lack of serious funding and visibility in the media, there is only so much the park rangers can do. There is, however, something WE can do.
When many people get new cell phones or new electronics, they simply throw the old one away.Most people don't realize that many of the electronic devices are recyclable or reusable. Many companies will refurbish older units for resale or actually break down the pieces into it's components and use the raw materials in making something new. The EPA has an entire section of their site devoted to recycling electronics.
Many of the cell phone companies will simply take any old phones and parts. Big chain stores like Staples and Best Buy also have electronics recycling. If you don't have any of those around, call your local waste management. Chances are, they have an electronics collection program.
If we can reduce the demand for coltan, we can reduce the impact that its mining has had on some really amazing creatures.
You can find out more about coltan here.
Picture of the gorilla by nailbender on Flickr and is licensed under Creative Commons.
Remember, you can find out more about gorillas by click the link at the top of the page or by visiting Year of the Gorilla.