African Press: Obama Gets it Wrong, Brownback Gets it Right on Congo Coltan and the “PlayStation War”

A few weeks back GamePolitics covered the so-called PlayStation War raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The issue revolves around Congo’s supply of the mineral coltan, used in PlayStation 2’s and many other consumer electronic devices.

In the latest development, a press release issued by the Panafrican Press Association charges that U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama just doesn’t get it when it comes to the relationship between coltan and the ongoing conflict in Congo. Claiming that Obama has mistakenly portrayed the strife as ethnic, the PPA writes:

Statements… attributed to Obama, explains in part why there is such silence around the tragic situation in the Congo. The conflict is unfortunately and wrongly presented as ethnic bloodletting. The ethnic rationale… plays into long-held stereotypes that Africans are interminably trapped in "tribal bloodletting," hence, nothing can be done…


The central reason for the nearly six million dead in the Congo since 1996 is not "ethnic strife" but rather the scramble for Congo’s enormous treasure trove of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, coltan, tin, timber and more…


Beneficiaries of Congo’s resource war include foreign corporations and consumers… Coltan is a key mineral that drives the conflict in the Congo and is found in our cell phones, laptop computers, digital cameras, video game consoles and many other devices. Congo has anywhere from 64% – 80% of the world’s reserve of coltan.

GP: We were surprised to learn that conservative Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is taking an active interest in the Congo coltan situation. Indeed, however, Brownback and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Conflict Coltan and Casserite Act in the Senate on May 23rd. Of the legislative proposal, Brownback said:

We are witnessing a grave humanitarian crisis in Congo, and we must act now to put an end to the death and suffering. Everyday, Americans use products that have been manufactured using inhumanely mined minerals. The legislation introduced by Senator Durbin and I will bring accountability and transparency to the supply chain of minerals used in the manufacturing of many electronic devices.

Sen. Durbin added:

Without knowing it, tens of millions of people in the United States may be putting money in the pockets of some of the worst human rights violators in the world, simply by using a cell phone or laptop computer. We ought to do all we can to make sure that the products we use and the minerals we import, in no way support those who violate human rights abroad.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Wait isn’t Obama right though a few years before that there was a genocidal war there.  Heres one random website.  Clearly its for profit but obviously there are some deep rooted social issued involved as well.  I also doubt that foreigners benefit more from an unstable country than they would from a stable country.

    Also even though Blood Diamonds and War Materials have dropped in their value to these countries due to the iniatative by companies such as Sony, the war and killing still goes on.

  2. HurricaneJesus says:

    Without knowing it, tens of millions of people in the United States may be putting money in the pockets of some of the worst human rights violators in the world, simply by using a cell phone or laptop computer


    I had to comment on this bullshit. How the fuck can you put the blame on the consumer, when they have NOTHING to do with where the company who makes these products obtains their minerals.


    Why not put the blame on the actual companies doing business with these fucks? Fucking idiotic.

  3. Dark Sovereign says:

    Playstation War sounds better than Laptop War. The former eeks out an identity for a crisis. The latter sounds like the name of a flame war.

  4. JBatt says:

    Why the heck does every article about this subject only specifically mention the playstation? Tantalum is used in thousands of modern devices. I’m sure there are a LOT more personal computers in the world than PS2s.

  5. Neeneko says:

    While I can agree that the bloodletting is ‘over resources’, if I recall correctly the general lines being fought along are ethnic.

    So bit of a chicken & egg thing here.  It would probably be most accurate to say that the value of these resources are fueling the various ethnic conflicts that have been going on.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And you won’t here a democrat admit they supported it.


    The reason you won’t here Republicans say it is because they know full well it was just.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The actual coltan controversy was from the early 00’s (Thus the mention of the PS2, which of course came out in 2000). There was quite a bit of outrage, and so western companies stopped buying coltan from the Congo and switched to Australia, thus putting hundreds of miners workings in safe conditions out of work, and cutting off one of the sources warlords get their money to buy firearms from western nations.

    As far as ethnic vs. resources, it’s both. It’s a bunch of tribal groups trying to kill each other off, selling their resources to western nations then buying weapons from those same nations to do it.

    As it is, the current reporting is really just a rerun of the old controversy.

  8. Dark Sovereign says:

    We would have had to beat Saddam down one way or another. Did you hear about the chache of yellowcake uranium that was found in Iraq? Besides, the Sunnis and Shias of Iraq don’t seem as interested in killing each other as they once were. Sunni support for the insurgency evaporated.

    Hell, all told, we could declare victory in Iraq now and have it be completely true. We’re withdrawing troops and leaving a fairly stable Arab democracy in our wake.

  9. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Its well known he "fended" off the terrorist groups on his soil, he’d support from them from afar but not to close…because they like to over throw and take over places he kept them at a distance, he also perfered his own way of doing things witch didn’t rely on them much.

    Also he stabilized the area because he had a iron fist, once we leave you can kiss stability goodbye, unless of course we put in place a nice hard regime of some sort….thus starting back to square one, Iraq is a pointless quagmire thats going to bite us on the ass sooner rather than later… because our "enemies" there are patient and will wait till we leave to raise hell, unless fascism in the whole hemisphere dissappaers, waring tribes don’t make for a stable region…unless there is a ton of oil to keep them fat and happy and funding terrorists behind our backs like the Saudis do….


    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)


  10. Anonymous says:

    First of all,do you have proof of this "did more to hurt" nonsense? No, you do not, infact, the facts are in favor of support for the war (for example the fact that the troop surge has reduced casuiltys?), yet the oppoents seem to deny them

    Magic messureing stick? No, simple logisitics, in this case it was possible to remove Sadam (who if you don’t think mass graves and torture chambers used on his own citizens is enough to deem him corupt and evil…), while it is generaly considered impossible to win a land war in Africa, and a quick look at the internet will tell you over a dozen reasons Burma would be a bad idea, the inability to do this is unfortuante but non the less true, I would fully support any further action to remove dictators such as Sadam from power, provided it is possible to win (something we are currently in the process of, see above).

    Do you ever wonder why the horrible countrys are the only ones with "peoples" or "democratic" in their names? This is because they are not, and it is mearly lies and propaganda. This means your point is invalid.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The line tends to be drawn around the point that a dictator uses CWMDs to intentionally slaughter hundreds of civilians and tries to kill off the President of the United States. Then there was the whole "posturing like Iraq has nukes" business.

  12. Anonymous says:

      You must have missed the whole war and the whole ethical implications of the war.  What gives us the right as an individual nation in a world with hundreds to judge another and attack it?  Especially when that government did MORE to hurt terrorists than support it, the exact thing we tore the government down in order to set up.  It may have nothing to do with resources but it sure as hell has a lot to do with stupidity.  There is nothing that would prevent a democratic government from doing the same thing as a dictatorship.  That why a lot of countries carry the name of Nation of the People Democractic Republic of China or whatever else.

      What about Congo, how about Burma, or any other oppressed country.  What magic measuring stick do you use to determine who to attack and who not to attack.  Where is the line?

  13. Anonymous says:

    No, I am talking about how the democrats fail to realize that the war was a just cause, removeing a corrupt dictator from power, as this one would be, ending the explotation of the areas people, and that it has nothing to do with resourceses


    The FIRST Iraq war was definitly about the oil though, anyone who denys that is stupid, anyone who claims it was western desire of the oil (because we totoaly shouldn’t defend an indepent nation that is attacked unprovked in an effort to takes it’s resorces for a corrupt dictatorship…) is twice as stupid.

  14. Arad says:

    I think he’s referencing the war in Iraq to liberate its oil stores.

    He’s sugguesting that if we went to war to secure the minerals of that region, democrats would oppose, then support that war.

    I wonder if I can legally put my political party down as ‘Pessimist’ when I go to vote this year…

  15. Anonymous says:

    What if you recieve money from working via a normal job that was used to pay someone who murdered someone else.  If you spend that money does that mean you should feel guilty for killing someone?  Everything you say is BS.  Your talking about unknown links theres also no way you would know if your PS2 contained coltan from Congo.  How about supporting working families and poor countries economies to help feed and educate their kids?  So who do we blame for straving and dieing families who can’t afford food and healthcare because we’re not buying phones and PS2s? You?

  16. Verbinator ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Black Dragon beat me to the punch (and said it better than I would have).

    It’s also important to remember that many people in African nations are dying because AID CANNOT REACH THEM.  Governments and humanitarian groups have rushed in to help in every recent crisis only to be blocked repeated by warlords, petty (but legitimate) rulers, thugs, and tribal groups who are actively trying to keep aid away from their enemies (who are usually members of their historical enemies).

    Racism and hatred are not the exclusive property of Western white males.

  17. Dark Sovereign says:

    The purportions of something are very important in this case. If one percent of all the world’s coltan comes from the Congo, despite the Congo holding eighty percent of the worlds coltan reserve, it tells us three things:

    1) Coltan is not needed in large doses.

    2) Coltan supply can far exceed demand, so the mineral is not very valuable

    3) Most of the electronics using tantalum do not in any way give money to Congolese warlords.

    The Congo only has two active diamond mines. Most of the rest are in fairly stable countries. Link

    Information on gold mining is a little harder to dig up, since Vista and Google are not interested in cooperating with me. Quite a bit of chatter about South African mines though.

    Essentially, the warlords aren’t getting much support from consumers buying electronics. Consumers certainly aren’t "supporting" anything. What would you have people do? Destroy every coltan containing device in sight, on the off chance that you might stop a dollar from getting to an African warlord?

  18. Brokenscope says:

    The only viable option would be to cut off all the smaller coltan refining operations, specifically any one that didn’t have its own mines.


  19. Black Dragon says:


    Diamonds, precious metals, ore, etc. are mined all over the planet. The vast, VAST majority of it is done without the cruel exploitation of people or the manipulation of local warbands.

    This has nothing to do with coltan specifically, nor the products that come from it. Minerals do not kill people. Most of the time, even the oft-vilified greed for precious resources doesn’t hurt anyone, but instead provides jobs, profit, and prosperity for the entire chain of producers.

    What we have here is not a case of western greed feeding human rights abuses, what we have is simply corrupt, criminal individuals abusing other people. Nothing more. People might like to try and make ordinary buyers feel responsible by linking the abuse to a product way down on the supply chain you might have purchased innocently (because nobody thinks about whether people died to make their consumer goods), but it’s meaningless. The only ones guilty here are the warlords using forced labor; they’d be just as guilty if they sold only within their own country, and we’re no more guilty because they probably sold to a wholesaler that maybe sold to Sony who might have used the "tainted" materials to build their products.

    But hey, if some fanatic wants to say I "support mass murder," then whatever. I never hurt anybody, I just bought a toy. Such ridiculous claims certainly don’t help your cause any.

  20. Jab49 says:

    I disagree, diamonds gold and coltan kill people. It’s that simple, since a portion is from mass murder and death if you do not know its source then you are supporting regardless of whether the specific instance is ACTUALLY from an unhumanitarian source. If you buy a PS2, and one PS2 was made with Coltan from 1 dead African, it doesn’t matter if you have that one, you have supported the act by a small percentage. Avoiding the fact because of purportionality doesn’t change it. Cell phones are the same, unless you know where its Tantalum is from, you support human rights violations. Small even tiny percentages of support is still support.

  21. Beery says:

    At least Democrats admit they were wrong in supporting it.  You’ll never hear a Republican admit that.

  22. Anonymous says:

    If we did go to war, no doubt the democrats would complain that we did… even if they supported it initally.

  23. Cecil475 says:

    "What year is this? Did I wake up in 2001 again? You guys may wanna cancel your trips to New York in early September. Just a heads up."

    Those in the New York area should also cancel any flights heading out west, Especially those with American Airlines. While I’m on this ‘Back to the Future’ post, why not go ahead and warn those airports of terroist sightings. The NYPD should be warned as well They need to also close down the Twin Towers. The D.C. area police should be warned as well as the Pentagon. Funny, how  no one really talks about the incident there compared to the one in NYC


    ..wait..what do you mean by, "Did I wake up in 2001 again?’ in the first place?


     – Warren Lewis

    R.i.P GamePolitics 2005-2016

  24. Keith K says:

    What year is this? Did I wake up in 2001 again? You guys may wanna cancel your trips to New York in early September. Just a heads up.

  25. Verbinator ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think this is still all posturing and guilt-mongering.

    The claim that this isn’t about tribal genocide and bloodletting is spin. It’s so much easier to rationalize (not justify) that killing  the "people who are not like us" is the way to go to get what you need. The motivation may be controlling mineral wealth, but it’s still just another way to rationalize killing people to get what you want (elimination of the "not like us").

    1% of Tantalum supply comes from the Congo region.  That’s statistically pretty small. But it’s still enough to try and guilt people into feeling like they are responsible for the murder and mayhem happening there and to salve their consciences by giving money to "the right people."

  26. black manta says:

    I don’t think Borwback is aware of the Coltan/Tantalum – PS2 connection.  And somehow I think even if he were, it wouldn’t make much diffrence to him.  He probably sees the PS2 aspect as something separate from video game content itself.  He probavly does not view the video game industry as holistically as we do, and probably is just looking at the "big picture" in terms of the coltan situation; not just as it applies to video games.

  27. Eville1NSI ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So is there any way legislation could, I dunno, possibly tie corporate tax breaks to this resource? Tell the corporations that if they get their minerals from that region then it better be in a humanitarian manner? Like making deals with the locals instead of the warlords? I dunno, just tossing out an idea. Make it harmful to the people buying it in such a manner and maybe they’ll take more interest in where their resources are coming from?

  28. BlackIce says:

    Look – Africa will always fight over Minerals to fund ethnic wars. There is no point in trying to stop it.

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

  29. Brokenscope says:

    Coltan is used to make Tantalum, which is used to make capacitors, which is why everyone wants coltan.

    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. Most of it is mined and refined in Australia.

    The citation is buried somewhere in this

    It is damn hard to track where the Tantalum comes from. Brownback is being a twat… again.




  30. rdeegvainl ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Seems to me that they are just wanting a feel good band-aid over the problem. Lets see, what if we make it mandatory that we know exactly where the materials came from…. Well then we have a couple of situations. One, most of our electronics are made foreign, so they either don’t comply and we pretty much put ourselves in a horrible situation. Probably wouldn’t happen, as that would hurt those that depend on us to buy the products they make. They could then just lie, and say they got it from reliable sources, in which case no affect on the African countries. Or maybe they actually stop the mining there. What do you think would happen then? Do you think that the people in charge who are violating human rights are just gonna say, all well, it was a fun ride, were out, enjoy freedom and happy lives. Probably not, they will just move on to the next most profitable thing and violate the hell out of human rights in that market. All the while we just hurt their economy so they are getting deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole. I don’t think anything will change over their without intervention. Either those in control are booted and replaced, or a revolt from the people themselves, or something. These guys aren’t just gonna let go of the power. I don’t see these ideas actually helping the situation.

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