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You may have heard about an effort some years ago to organize a boycott against cell phones. This is the motivation behind the boycott: Coltan. The name is a contraction of columbite and tantalite, which are the major minerals present in the ore. The name columbite comes from the old name of niobium, columbium. Tantalite is of course named for its major component, tantalum. Coltan is a major ore for tantalum, used in capacitors found in nearly all digital electronics, including cell phones (and computers and talking dolls and defibrillators and pretty much everything else invented since 1980).
The problem with coltan is that some of it comes from a region in the Congo that is one of last habitats for gorillas. It's also an area home to the other kind of gorilla, guerrillas, who are fighting various nasty wars with each other, and using revenues from coltan mining to pay for those wars. Gorillas are being killed to fund guerrilla wars, and digital electronics are the beneficiaries.
The boycott didn't last long, and it's kind of hard to imagine how the sponsors planned to organize it without the use of cell phones. It's also worth noting that less than one percent of the world's supply of tantalum comes from the Congo.
Source: Jensan Scientifics
Contributor: Theodore Gray
Acquired: 16 October, 2009
Text Updated: 18 October, 2009