Child Slavery, Coltan and The Congo

An estimated 2-million child-slaves work from sunrise to sunset to dig coltan by hand from the soil – and it is traded on the black market for US $400 a pound. – digitaljournal.com

With my feed reader overflowing with thousands of articles to sift through about modern slavery, I’ve recently turned to Twitter to find the stories that are moving others to speak out. The quote above came from a post cited by Chris Hogg in his twitter stream.

Slavery today, specifically child slavery, is being driven by the same motivation as it always has – profits. Coltan (Columbite-tantalite), it turns out, is ONLY in existence in the Eastern Congo and a small region of Tanzania. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. It is used in the production of capacitors.

Every day hundreds of thousands of Congolese child-slaves are forced to crawl into underground mines on their hands and knees to dig for the essential raw material make electronic gadgets like cell phones, iPods, laptop computers, play stations, wireless systems, DVD players, blackberries and pagers possible.

Clearly, I applaud the Dutch labour MP for his desire to see the end of child slave labor in the Congo. And there are alternatives to using the Coltan produced in Central Africa. Australia is also a major producer of Coltan and many electronics companies are now rejecting Coltan, opting to only purchase from legitimate sources. Unfortunately, I think real change will only come from finding an affordable alternative to Coltan. Thankfully, there is a movement to find alternatives to Coltan in capacitor production, including Niobium, multilayer ceramic capacitors and aluminum-polymer capacitors. I have no idea how long these methods will take to make their way into production or what their viability is.

In the meantime, children in the Congo are being abused daily to feed our addiction to ever cheaper technology. The Dutch petition was sent to all of the major multinational firms that produce cell phones. Let’s hope they act.

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6 thoughts on “Child Slavery, Coltan and The Congo

  1. [...] is alive and well in civilization. The benefactors are still us. CBC News In Depth: Modern slavery Child Slavery, Coltan and The Congo Stop Child Slavery Westerners absolutely depend on child slavery in the congo for the coltan that goes into our [...]

  2. [...] they are making from these kids digging in unsafe areas underground.In the mean time, children in Congo are being abused daily to feed our addiction to cheaper technology.Many companies are rejecting [...]

  3. [...] minerals” from the soil in inhuman conditions, often with their bare hands. An estimated 2 million of the miners are children, and often they are literal or virtual slaves who are on the brink of [...]

  4. Birgit says:

    I thought that fair amount of Coltan exists in Brazil…

  5. [...] labour, both within countries and around the world. We get to be creative on our MacBooks because children dig coltan for computer components in the Congo, because teenagers assemble touch-pads in Chinese sweatshops, [...]

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