The Coltan Research Project
This website is designed to curate and organize information concerning the mining of coltan in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Coltan (columbite-tantalites) is a ‘conflict mineral’ on which some of the world’s biggest industries and corporations depend, and is critical to the functioning and development of electronic and digital technology in particular. The majority of the earth’s coltan supply is found in the DRC, and its mining and extraction has historically been at the detriment of the country and its citizens.
Coltan mining has long been the subject of civil war, and a huge amount of human rights violations including child labor in mines, regular massacres and executions by invasive military squads, and an extortionate amount of sexual violence. Despite this, knowledge of such atrocities outside of the country itself remains limited. Millions of people use their mobile phones, tablets, and laptops on a daily basis without possessing much awareness of the human and material costs implicated in the production and distribution of such devices. Even scholars whose research concerns digital technology have largely ignored the inextricable relationship between the subject and the on-going suffering in the DRC.
With that in mind, this project is designed to collect information from a variety of sources related to the mining of coltan in the DRC in order to provide a database of sorts for those who wish to learn more. It is by no means authoritative or comprehensive. Instead, the purpose is to facilitate a more sustained engagement with the subject than is normally provided by mainstream media outlets and information sources. The broad coverage of the site is thus broken into categories of media: Social Media (which collects individual tweets and posts from Congolese citizens and other users who post about issues related to coltan in the DRC), Studies (which attempts to explain and synthesise the findings from academic studies about coltan mining in accessible ways), Videos & Media (which provides coverage and commentary of documentaries and video footage about the issue), News (which simply collects coverage by a variety of existing outlets for ease of access), and Organizations (which provides links to charities and organizations explicitly concerned with improving the well-being of those affected by coltan mining in the DRC).
Far from the last word on the subject, this website purports to be one of the first for those who are not as knowledgable about the goings on in the DRC, or the relationship between their own mobile phone and the exploitative extraction of resources across the globe. By combining information from news sources, individual social media users and citizens ‘from the ground,’ and the research conducted so far, our hope is to encourage people to think more critically about the worldly processes that make something so household and everyday complicit in arguably the worst human rights crisis in recent global history.