Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

July 11, 2008 -

The PlayStation 2's requirement for a rare metal in its manufacturing process helped fuel a bloody, decade-long conflict in Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo, according to an investigative report on Toward Freedom.

The site alleges that demand for coltan by Sony and other personal electronics manufacturers led Rwandan troops and Western companies to exploit the people and mineral resources of Congo, with children often forced to work in mines.

Oona King, a former member of the British Parliament, told Toward Freedom:

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. 

So, what is coltan? From the report:

After it is refined, coltan becomes a bluish-gray powder called tantalum... [which] has one significant use: to satisfy the West’s insatiable appetite for personal technology. Tantalum is used to make cell phones, laptops and other electronics made, for example, by SONY, a multi-billion dollar multinational based in Japan that manufactures the iconic PlayStation...

Researcher David Barouski commented:

[The] PlayStation 2 launch... was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan...  SONY and other companies like it, have the benefit of plausible deniability because the coltan ore trades hands so many times from when it is mined to when SONY gets a processed product, that a company often has no idea where the original coltan ore came from, and frankly don’t care to know. But statistical analysis shows it to be nearly inconceivable that SONY made all its PlayStations without using Congolese coltan.

A Sony rep told Toward Freedom that the company now takes steps to ensure that it does not use coltan illegally obtained from Congo in its manufacturing processes.


Comments

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Warning: Sarcasm ahead.

You know, in a backwards kind of way, we may have a moral responsibility to buy these electronic gadgets seeing how people possibly died for them.  I mean we didn't pay for it first then have someone go out and mine it so as to build what we ordered.  It was Sony et al who bought the stuff and used it to put it on shelves.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Yes, I'm angry at organisations for doing things like this, and no it is most certainly not limited to the electronic consumer market, from Food to Clothing this sort of thing happens :(

However, that said, I will nod to the fact the report states that there is a long line between the Congo and Sony. What of the other sources where it is mined legally and people rely on the wages of mining it to survive? Should they also suffer? Because they would if Sony simply stopped making the Playstation because some of it's coltan supply is beyond it's control.

I fully agree that something needs to be done about the exploitation that takes place in these countries, but the problem needs to be faced as more than one company, or even one type of company, and it needs to include the countries involved as well, Rwanda would hardly be a haven of human rights if the Playstation did not exist, if the children were not mining ore, they would be making trainers or the like, and THAT is the problem, not what they are doing, but the fact that child-labor is taking place in the first place, and that's not the fault of a corporation alone, but of the social environment as a whole, on both sides of the water.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Well said Anonymous.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Is this right?

The United States Geological Survey reports in its 2006 yearbook that the Democratic Republic of the Congo produces a little less than 1% of the world's tantalum... Tantalum minerals are also mined in Brazil, Canada, China, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

Less than 1%? So is this just a publicity stunt, or can they actually show that Sony can be connected to that < 1%?

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I wouldn't imagine that the stuff coming from Ethiopia, Mozambique or even China or Brazil are necessarily ethically sourced...

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I should hope the ECA defends my right to by "blood" consoles, if not think of the skyrocketing costs to me the consumer

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Mhh, it seems very silly to single Sony or the Playstation 2 in this.

Tantalum is used to make capicators that are small, yet have a relatively highy capacity, combined with very  frequency characteristics. They are used in electronic devices in general, not just computers.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Exactly, and according to the stuff's Wiki page most of it comes out of Australia.

And don't blame the consumer (ie yourself), but blame the governments that went to war over the stuff.
People have started using more and more personal electronics since well before the release of the PS2 that all required the stuff for their capacitors.

On a different note, you could identify where the material comes from by checking the isotopes it contains, since materials from different regions of the globe contain isotopes of various materials in different amounts. Its not a cheap method, but its doable. Not sure if isotope identification is used for anything else, but i do think it is used.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Actually thats a similar process they use to identify "Conflict" or "Blood" diamonds

Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

But what happens when some of the Coltan you buy ends up being from Africa? It's already mined, where is it gonna go if no one uses it?

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Tracking the source could be hard, considering most of it is smuggled, and it's not like you can mark them like diamonds. If only they could find it elsewhere outside of the corrupt African nations surrounding the Congo, then you could at least have "legit" suppliers.

That was half the advertising scheme with Canadian diamonds, "Guaranteed to be 100% conflict-free".

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

This makes me feel disgusted for having a playstation 2, and inadverntantly funding such horrible acts. It sucks, this is very surprising. I guess we have to take Sony's word that they are no longer involved in such a thing.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I hope you realize that coltan is also used for cell phones, computers, and other daily electronic devices as a resister. Also, just in case you don't know the numbers, PC and cell phones sales respectively dwarf those of only 150 million PS2s. So yeah if you really object that strongly, feel free to live without a cell phone or PC if you can...Just a thought

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Just like we took the tobacco industries word that tobacco doesn't kill anybody?  ... your a republican, huh?

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

there is no data saying that sony knew that their coltan came from the congo. you own a pc, dont you? dosn't that, as well as almost all electronics in your home, contain coltran? there is absolutely no way to live in the us today without using a resource mined in a third world country. do you know where the oil in your car/the public transport you ride on comes from, exactly? do you know where the paper in the book on your desk came from?  do you know where the gold in you sound system came from?

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

don't feel bad, it's not strictly a Sony thing. that's just a hot buzz word the author used to garner attention. yeah, blame Sony, that'll stir up some interest. pretty lame. reading up on Coltan in Wikipedia, the stuff is used in EVERYTHING, inlcuding cell phones, pagers, DVD players, yadda yadda. probably xbox and wii, too. to blame the ps2 for the lion's share of demand is just bs. sure, there's like 150 million ps2 in the world, but what, a billion cell phones? a trillion dvd players? the whole blood thing is tragic, but it's really fuel by modern technology in general and on a global scale. saying ps2 fueled a blood war is like saying Canadians should be blamed for harsh winters because the cold fronts come from there.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Cidas, then I suggest you also get rid of your Cell Phone, laptop computers, car computers, gameboy, etc...

This is a sought after material, period.  If it made it into a PS2, you can be damn sure it's in your iPod as well.  And if you READ the article, they basically state they have no proof PS2 DOES have it, they just noted an increase in demand at the PS2 launch.

 

Let's put it this way, I, as a consumer, wish to purchase LEDs for some case modding.  So I go to Radio Shack and buy the LEDS.  Radioshack, meanwhile, buys their LEDs from a manufacturer from China.  This manufacturer meanwhile, buys their materials from a material distributor.  This material distributor buys the materials from mines.  If this material was mined in Rowanda, am I the asshole?  I didn't know.  Is Radio Shack the evil people?  Once again, how could they know?  What about the manufacturer?  Do YOU, when purchasing things like fabric, question where the thread came from?  No, you buy the thread.  The distributer may have some idea since they are buying from the companies selling the stuff directly, now knowledge creeps in.  The company sellers know fully well where it came from, but do you think for a second they'd say "Yep, little black children mine this under gunpoint so we can pass the savings onto you."

That doesn't happen.  I highly doubt, even if some of this material made it's way into some PS2s, Sony was actively researching this.  Just as I'm sure Motorola could give a slippery piegon fart about where the plastic they used comes from.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Good point!

We DO know about this problem NOW,  however.

Add to that the fact that the demand for these products is our "fault", and that we apparently can't trust a company (generally speaking) to be sure their products are manufactured with ethics in mind, from source to end of lifecycle (one bit of proof of this fact: Electronic devices are super toxic in landfills and trash incinerators, and very few of the companies that sell us these products have any mechanism in place to take them back when we are done with them to insure that they are recycled, or disposed of properly. So for the most part, all these obsolete and toxic items end up in the ground or air, slowly poisoning us all, animals included...actually animals especially.)

So, at this point, now that we know, it becomes our responsibility to either get rid of the demand for the products , and/or to make it known that we will not buy anything unless it is not killing, poisoning, or unfairly taking advantage of ANYONE, and will also not become a toxic burden to anyone when we are done with it.

It's a tall order, but the first step toward that goal is a change in conciousness. Some of the people reading this may disagree, but some agree, and that's a start.

Eventually, if we all take action to make sure we are not contributing to these companies , and if we continue to do so, they will get the message.

In this case,  the adage "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." applies to us 1000%.

It's about power, really, and we are th only ones with it. It requires us to have the courage to act individually, though.

If anyone wants to contact me to talk about what we CAN do to make these types of things better, I would love to start some kind of dialog. Gamers are typically intelligent people, lets tap into that intelligence. This affects all of us.

This is my junky email addy, but once a dialog has been opened, I will give anyone that contacts me a better one to use. Maybe put "Gamer" in the subj line, so I know its not an ad for boner pills or anything, and send me an email at offerexpiressoon2000 (the at symbol) yahoo (the dot we all know and love) com.

 

Gary

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Thanks,, My thoughts exactley.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Thank you kind sir. I was trying to type that kind of analogy out but gave up. I agree with you wholeheartedly. You buy a shirt that says "made in China," you've no idea how good or bad the original makers were being treated, and it doesn't matter now that the product is made soo....

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

"you've no idea how good or bad the original makers were being treated, and it doesn't matter now that the product is made soo...."

It does matter that the product has been made, because products (unlike the Industrial Boom) are now produced with demand in mind. Demand is created by you buying something, therefore by you buying this item you are proving to them that there is demand out there for the unethical product they are producing.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Think about it this way...  its not only PS2, its many pieces of personal electronics.  Saying you wouldn't own a PS2 if you knew this would aslo mean you need to re-evaluate other purchases as well.  Personal electronics can range from you cell phone, to your PC, ipods all the way up the chain.  To say you wouldn't have bought one, means you would have to not buy any of these products to be sure you didn't contribute to this.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

There's no evidence to support the article's claims that Sony deliberately and knowingly used illegal coltan before (or after) 2003 in any of their products, let alone the PS2.

Why on earth would you just take a single article's word for it?

If you really want to get upset, guess what rare metal Apple's iPods contain. Then think about how many more iPods are out there than PS2s.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I missed the part where Sony deliberately sought out sources of coltan from child labor camps. Or else you missed the part where they stopped obtaining it from such sources when it came to their attention.

A PS2 is a good bit larger than an iPod. 140 million ipods probably accounts for less resources than 127 million PS2s.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

There isn't any compelling reason to carry the guilt yourself.  The system that you're using would have been made whether you purchased it or not.  The guilt rests firmly on Sony's shoulders because they had to know that had this been common knowledge before the PS2 was released many consumers would have "opted out" of that generation.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Look, there's no real point to feeling bad about something you can't do anything about.

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Wow. There's a great attitude for you.

"Why end slavery? The Blacks are just going to be oppressed and ghettoized anyways. They're much better off picking cotton, at least then they'd have a roof and 3 square meals!"

"Why let women work? They're just going to be paid less and restricted by a glass ceiling anyways!"

"Who cares about the environment? I'm going to be long dead by the time it goes to shit anyways!"

"Why bother prosecuting murderers? It's not going to bring back the dead!"

 

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. -- Edmund Burke.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

The problem is that we have absolutely no alternative.

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

 

 

one of the most important things to realize is that tantalum is only used for SMALL capacitors.

I am a EE, with many years in the industry, teaching/grad student now, and for years I have taught students to avoid the use of tantalum capacitors in their designs for just this reason.  If we use electrolytic capacitors, for example, we avoid these social consequences.  the tradeoff is merely SIZE.  the playstation(s) could easily be an inch or two bigger here and there with no loss in gameplay.

cellphones are more of a challenge, because people want them to be small.  I honestly don't know how many tantalum capacitors are in an average cellphone, so I'm not as qualified to comment on them as with game consoles.

BTW, i also teach beginning students to avoid using acrylic and especially aluminum whereever possible.  in at least 75% of the designs they make, wood and steel are completely sufficient. 

Re: Report: Apathy?

Well you are just one apathetic son of a bitch. 

I mean that in the kindest way possible. 

I mean, I know a friend of mine will vote opposite of me in the coming election; does that mean we should both sit at home a drink beer instead? No, duty and privilege says we go out and vote, then drink beer. 

So take that one of two ways, duty as a human being says you should get up and start trying to find ways to fix the problem; or privilege based on where you live, lets you sit at home a drink beer because it doesn't matter to you. 

With problems like these it takes one or a small few to get a ball rolling and keep it rolling; through time and work something might come of it.  For example, if a group of people with a similar connections, a very specific group of people known as Gamers, can rally together to get a man's stolen xbox and other gear back to him, and have the extra time to harass the guy who did it all in a manner of a few days; why can't that same community get together and work on an issue like this.  They may not make the direct change, but they can affect it inderectly. 

So I'm preaching, however I do not have the connections to do anything about this. Again we are so far removed from the situation I might even forget about this new post in some time.  What to do about? I don't know. I'm not intelligent enough to answer that question.  I'm trying to get an education in something that will allow me to hopefully make a change on some level if I so chose; then again I have to decide to do so. 

All in all it comes down to how we each live blah blah.  Will any of the producers of electronic equipment have a Tony Stark moment and cease production of that which may cause ill will on earth? I doubt it. 

So with out quoting someone more profound than I, just live well enough to sleep at night.  If you can do that, then I guess you are at peace with yourself so what should I care. 

 

-G

___________________________________________________________________________________

If apathy ever becomes a crime, I hope I do not get arrested for not caring when they take you away. 

 

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Can't do anything about or choose to do nothing about?  Had this information been public before I bought a PS2 I would never have purchased one and I damn well would have convinced friends of mine to not purchase one either.

I love gaming but I there is not a single game or game system that I need to have in my life.  I imagine that I'm not alone among adult consumers in that I would gladly have never purchased a PS2 if I knew what the potential ramifications were.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Do you own a cell phone, a TV, a car, or any other device that contains circuit boards? Well if so, then you shouldn't have bought those either. The article is singling out Sony and the PS2, but in reality, the author even admits that this metal is used in the manufacture of many many electronics... not just Sony products. 

So that computer you're typing on? How far can are you going to take this?

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

You would have convinced your friends to stay the hell away from the know-it-all prick who won't shut up about the PS2.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

If you hadn't, someone else would have. It doesn't make a difference.

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

yeah yeah, go say that to one of those kids... Go and explain them your sound philosophy, then please, please, think before saying anything.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

The reasonable adult consumer who wouldn't do without a PS2 if the circumstances of its construction could have caused the death of a child in a cold, dark cave hundreds of feet underground is morally bankrupt.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I don't see a downside there either. A child killed by a car infront of you is a tradgedy. A child killed in an African war is a statistic.

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

That's a disgusting sentiment.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

@ BlackIce

Stalin. What do I win?

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Absolutely nothing. Just like in all Modern Warfare.

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

With your bitch slap rappin'
And your cocaine tongue
You get nuthin' done

 

Awesome...

 

And it's terrible about those kids. The people should rise up and unseat the assholes that are oppressing them. Strength in numbers and all...

 

. . Wisdom begins in wonder. - Socrates . .

. . Wisdom begins in wonder. - Socrates . .

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Problem is those oppresing them have strength in automatic weapons fire.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Umm the article says that Coltan is used in a lot of consumer electronics, not just the playstation, or are they saying the majority was sold to sony?

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I don't know why they're picking on Sony so much - by far the the biggest use of tantalum capacitors is for cellphone manufacturing. This is one of the reasons there's so much pressure to recycle your cellphone. There isn't that much tantalum left in the world, and it's not widely distributed.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Considering the article about coltan, I really doubt it's use on playstation is the reason that fuels conflict. There are WAY too many products that require tantalum, and all of those products sell a lot. So it's a blame the game and gamers, once again.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Either way, it's still a child. And no child should die because of either of those circumstances. Let alone in a mine shaft.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

I don't think you understand how business is conducted in Africa.  If they weren't mining, they'd be using the same children to fight wars for whatever other resousrce was available, even if that meant fighting over a useless stretch of desert.

 

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

Which, to a lesser extent, is what they do in the Middle East.

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

~You Could Be Mine, But You're Way Out Of Line..~

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

OK, I give up.  Let's just start a full-fledged war on people who persist with the sterotype that gaming consists of killing "imaginary" aliens.

Re: Report: Rare Metal Fueled African "PlayStation War"

 Because the aliens you kill are real......?

 
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