Democratic Republic of Congo; The curse of Coltan

By New African Review
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The untapped mineral wealth of The Democratic Republic of

Congo is estimated at $24 trillion, equivalent to the GDP

of Europe and USA combined; it makes DRCongo potentially

the richest country in the world,' New African observes.

It is the extraction and trade in part of this 'mineral

wealth...which is [then] readily smuggled that continues to

fuel the conflict that has devastated the country and the

lives of its people.'
One of these highly priced minerals is Colombo-tantalite,

commonly called coltan.When crushed; it forms a heat

resistant powder capable of holding very high levels of

electric charge. It is thus used as a heat resistor and in

power storing units of many electronic devices--mobile

phones, laptops, spacecraft and thousands more. Its use has

made it possible the reduction in size of many electronic

devices as well as today's advanced wireless technology

New African writes that among other minerals, coltan's

'multi-million dollar trade has served to brutally
destabilize eastern Congo, and fuel the ongoing conflict in

which an estimated 5 million deaths have occurred since

1996.'
DRCongo has relied heavily on the support of a UN peace

keeping contingent to maintain order and to put a check to

the 'illegal exploitation of natural resources [which]

continues to fuel internal conflict.' But lately, New

African reports that this contingent has been accused of

complicity with rebel groups and other kinds of illegality

and malpractice. Now the Congolese government has requested

its withdrawal, by June 2011. Could this lead to a
resurgence of the insurgency?