In a world where convenience reigns supreme, demand for electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and video game systems continues to steadily rise. And with new versions of smartphones and tablet computers coming out before the previous ones have a chance to become properly used, demand for the tantalum capacitators used to produce such electronic devices has consequently increased as well. While supply and demand is generally viewed as a positive circumstance in any market, in this case, much of the world's tantalum supply is tainted by harmful environmental practices and gross human rights violations suffered by coltan miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the mineral is mined under incredibly concerning circumstances.
Traditionally, companies that purchase tantalum have been left with very few options outside of the DRC and other surrounding conflict zones. However, a new wave of tantalum suppliers has emerged in areas such as South America and Australia, with a steadfast commitment to producing a sustainable, ethical, and ultimately clean product. By providing companies with a sustainably mined product, they are doing their part to decrease global support for coltan mined in the DRC, where miners often work in harrowing conditions and illegal coltan mining is believed to fund deadly conflicts. Not only have men and women subjected themselves to the dangerous life of coltan mining in these areas, but many children have joined the workforce as well -- often dropping out of school and risking their lives.
With so many ethical and environmental issues at stake, companies have become increasingly cautious when choosing from the growing list of worldwide tantalum suppliers, demanding a cleaner product. As a result, many suppliers have amped up their efforts to mine sustainably and ethically. What exactly makes their product cleaner than that produced in the DRC? While specific mining procedures vary from one location to the next, there are some common characteristics of sustainable mining that many have in common. For example, coltan miners are provided with safe, legal working conditions and are adequately compensated for their work. Environmentally sound production practices are utilized in compliance with local and international laws, including the United Nations Environmental Guidelines for Mining Operations. In addition, human rights violations and child labor are simply not tolerated.
Now that new players have stepped up to the plate to advocate for sustainable mining, it is up to the purchasers of this coveted mineral to contribute to the cause by choosing clean, ethical tantalum suppliers. By purchasing your coltan outside of the DRC, and other questionable areas, you are sending a message to others in the industry that you will not stand for environmentally destructive mining or human rights violations. If more companies demand ethical, clean production methods, others will follow suit; thus decreasing the power of illegal, unethical operations in major conflict zones across the world.