Blood Coltan

Sven Torfinn

Sven Torfinn explores the deadly quest for Coltan in Congo's Kivu province.~~The glitzy shopping malls of London, Berlin and Shanghai, where mobile phones and other electronic gadgets are sold as must-have life-style choices, may seem a long way from the muddy jungles of Central Africa. The two are, however, inextricably linked by a dull, black mineral that is found in abundance in war-ravaged, lawless Eastern Congo: Coltan. Short for columbite-tantalite, coltan is a heat-resistant component used in the manufacture of devices as diverse as mobile phones, games consoles, computer chips and missiles. ~~Coltan’s ubiquity in electronic devices has made it so indispensable to the electronics industry that Sony’s launch of its PlayStation 2 in 2000 caused the unit price of coltan to skyrocket from US $ 49 to US $ 275 per pound within weeks. The global annual coltan supply is estimated to be worth as much as US $ 6 billion.~

Around 70 – 80% of all known coltan supplies are thought to be hidden below Congo’s verdant interior, a fact that has not escaped the warring factions in this most neglected part of the country which has been convulsed by almost perpetual fighting since the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994. Hutu rebels fleeing across the border at the time set off Africa’s most bloody conflict to date which is estimated to have claimed the lives of almost five and a half million people. ~~The high prices paid for coltan have been cited as a potent force driving the seemingly endless conflict tearing Congo apart. Competing groups of rebels and militia, both from within Congo and from neighbouring countries, have been terrorising local populations for the past 15 years, often using rape as a weapon of war. Due to a complete breakdown of law and order, there is no shortage of recruits to do the rebels’ dirty work in digging for coltan.~~Children, deserters from the army, common criminals and other groups of desperate individuals flock to improvised mines to spend their days some 70 metres below ground, extracting the precious substance by hand. Accidents are commonplace and amateur miners are frequently buried alive. ~~Following a 2001 UN report looking into human rights abuses in Congo, international attention turned to coltan as yet another natural resource being exploited to finance wars. Previously, Africa’s so-called “blood diamonds” had come under increased scrutiny, culminating in the Kimberley Process, a certification scheme intended to guarantee that diamonds come from non-conflict regions. Since the 2007 G8 summit, a similar process is now being developed to determine coltan’s provenance.~~Sven Torfinn travelled to Kivu Province with geologist Uwe Naeher from Germany’s Federal Institute for Geology and Raw Materials (BGR) who is working on expanding a system of certification for Congo’s coltan. With colleagues in Germany and using samples from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels, Naeher has developed a method of “fingerprinting” coltan to determine where and how it was mined. His treacherous task now is to collect samples from Eastern Congo’s currently active mines to expand his research.~~Longer text available upon request.~ ~ ~

 

Display

Select a subject

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Motorcyclists on a dirt track above the town of...

© Sven Torfinn

00128970

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A view through a broken window from the Museum of...

© Sven Torfinn

00128971

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Inside the Museum of Geology in Bukavu. This museum...

© Sven Torfinn

00128972

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A note book of Uwe Naeher, geologist and project...

© Sven Torfinn

00128973

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A young woman carries a bag on her head as she walks...

© Sven Torfinn

00128991

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

An entrance to a mine in Nyabibwe where many tons of...

© Sven Torfinn

00128992

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A miner at work in Nyabibwe where many tons of coltan...

© Sven Torfinn

00128998

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A miner holds samples of minerals in Nyabibwe where...

© Sven Torfinn

00128999

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A miner at work in Nyabibwe where many tons of coltan...

© Sven Torfinn

00128996

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Miners return home after a long day working...

© Sven Torfinn

00129000

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Two miners at work in Nyabibwe where many tons of...

© Sven Torfinn

00128997

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A boy wears a t-shirt with a picture of US President...

© Sven Torfinn

00128988

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Dirty trousers left behind by a miner in Nyabibwe...

© Sven Torfinn

00129003

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A boy sits in front of his hut wearing a t-shirt with...

© Sven Torfinn

00128989

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Two miners at work in Nyabibwe where many tons of...

© Sven Torfinn

00128994

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A boy wears a shirt with a stitching of a revolver on...

© Sven Torfinn

00128990

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A miner sits on a hill in the small town of Nyabibwe,...

© Sven Torfinn

00128986

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A miner at work in Nyabibwe where many tons of coltan...

© Sven Torfinn

00128995

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A child wears a belt with a revolver and bullets...

© Sven Torfinn

00128987

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Two miners at work in Nyabibwe where many tons of...

© Sven Torfinn

00128993

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A portrait of Uwe Naeher, geologist and project...

© Sven Torfinn

00128976

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A reflection of Uwe Naeher in the mirror of his...

© Sven Torfinn

00128977

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Coltan (columbite-tantalite) in trays in a warehouse....

© Sven Torfinn

00128978

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A view over hills from the small mining town of...

© Sven Torfinn

00129004

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A portrait of Uwe Naeher using his laptop in the...

© Sven Torfinn

00128984

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A man holds coltan (columbite-tantalite) in his...

© Sven Torfinn

00128981

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A coltan (columbite-tantalite) dealer in Goma. Coltan...

© Sven Torfinn

00085579

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Uwe Naeher studies a sample of coltan...

© Sven Torfinn

00128980

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Uwe Naeher studies a sample of coltan...

© Sven Torfinn

00128979

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A man holds coltan (columbite-tantalite) in his...

© Sven Torfinn

00128983

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A soldier poses with an RPG weapon in the small town...

© Sven Torfinn

00129001

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

A view down to Lake Kivu from Nyabibwe, a small town...

© Sven Torfinn

00128985

of
Panos Pictures  1 Honduras Street  London  EC1Y 0TH  UK |  telephone: +44 20 7253 1424 |  email: info@panos.co.uk     
POWERED BY INFRADOX