According to an investigative report at towardsfreedom, a decade-long war has been fought in the Congo over a metallic ore called coltan. Coltan can be refined to a powder called tantalum, which is then used in the manufacturing of several electronic products, including the PlayStation. The Congo is not the only place the coltan can be found, but it has become a major player in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s economy. So much so, that the country, its neighbors, and rebel factions have been killing for it.
Over the years, the need for coltan has increased, thus fueling a human rights problem. The U.N. has discovered that rebels have been using their youngest prisoners-of-war to mine the ore. After the mining, this child product is then sold at a discount to Western companies. Ooona King, a former Parliament member said this about the children’s situation and the reason why they have been sent into the mines:
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.
The war has receded from its initially large levels in 1999 because of a peace treaty signed in 2003, although fighting is still going on inside the DRC’s eastern border. According to researcher David Barouski, the “PlayStation 2 launch (spring of 2000) was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan that began in early 1999.”
Sony has repeatedly stated that its coltan has been purchased both legally and ethically. I, personally, find it hard to believe that this could even be tracked. Obviously, there is a ton of history to this story and I have only pointed out a small section. Excluding the war’s dumb nickname, I wonder why Sony is bearing the burden for all of this? Coltan is used in practically every electronic item. Is this another case of videogame whipping disease, or do you think the PlayStation has this much of an impact on the region?