Definition: What is Coltan and what is it used for?

Coltan Information, History and Uses in Electronics

What is Coltan and Tantalum Mineral OreI have had several questions from readers asking “What is Coltan”? The reason people have asked this is in regards to the article I wrote talking about the use of Coltan in the Sony Playstation.

So I wanted to follow-up with a brief article that answers some of these questions.

Coltan is the name of a metallic ore called “columbite-tantalite”. Two key minerals can be extracted from Coltan. These minerals are niobium and tantalum. Tantalum is used in the production of many types of consumer electronics ranging from cell phones, dvd players, computers and even the Sony Playstation.

Tantalum is used for the production of capacitors for high performance electronics that need to be reliable and compact. Tantalum is produced in countries throughout the world, with less than 1% of total production coming from the Congo region in Africa. (This information goes against claims of civil wars fueled by the mining of Coltan in the Congo.)

For a great article with detailed information on Coltan and Tantalum production checkout the wikipedia entry that goes into depth on the mining, production, uses and geo-political concerns surrounding the production of this mineral.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coltan



At What Point are we Taking Things Too Far? “Playstation War”

Playstation 2 Component Called Coltan Incites African War in the Congo

Playstation War in Africa over ColtanI came across an article today entitled “Playstation 2 component incites African war”. The story goes on to talk about how a rare metal called coltan, used in the production of the PS2 has become the modern day blood diamond of the tech industry.

The story mentions that numerous devices including cell phones, computers and, of course, game consoles all make use of this rare metal to produce certain components.

The article came off as sounding desperate for news to me, and we all know it is not uncommon for the media to go to any length to create something political to generate a story.

The fact that the article was peppered with words like “claims,” “allegedly,” and “according to,” makes me question the facts that were presented in the story.

While mentioning that numerous hardware manufacturers utilize this metal, the article focuses on singling out Sony, probably due to the high profile success of the Playstation game console.

The article’s tone carries an overall air of guilt that is being targeted towards companies producing these devices, and the consumers who are buying them. This is very apparent in two of the comments in the story that are listed below.

“Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms,”

“a company often has no idea where the original coltan ore came from, and frankly don’t care to know.”

I wonder if they actually believe this is part of some clandestine attempt to bring suffering to people, or just the fact that there are thousands of other considerations surrounding a Video game console release.

With factors like digital media rights, trademarks, violence & ERSB ratings, soundtrack licensing, political & religious implications and more, I think expecting a company to track down the source of every material they use to build a piece of hardware is completely unrealistic.

The article does a great job of (unknowingly) highlighting the real source of the issue, which are the numerous ongoing conflicts around the world.

These problems will not go away if we stop producing video game systems, or refuse to use cell phones and computers. These are cultural issues that need to be addressed on a global scale, as opposed to grasping at straws to assign blame.

Once we can get past the “who is at fault” mentality that pervades our society, we can focus on ideas that will make a difference and ask “how can we make things better”.

Unfortunately we don’t see a lot of news stories asking “what can we do to make a difference” in our modern day culture. Maybe that in itself is one of our biggest problems?


By Paul in Gaming  .::. Read Comment (1)


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