Got blood on your cell phone?

Beware - the maker of your mobile phone may not want you to know about this

Chika Oduah
5 min readApr 10, 2020


Hey, your cell phone, laptop or tablet likely has a rare metallic ore called coltan in it. Now maybe, you’ve never heard of coltan, but your device probably wouldn’t even turn on without it.

A man displays coltan rocks at a town in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo — Reuters/Baz Ratner

Coltan is extremely useful. It contains a key metal that’s used to manufacture lightbulbs, computers, vacuum cleaners and nowadays, solar panels.

But have you ever heard of blood diamonds? Well, coltan is a blood mineral, AKA, a conflict mineral. Conflict minerals are dirty secrets that the electronic industry doesn’t want you to know about.

From Mine to Mobile Phone: The Conflict Minerals Supply Chain

Let me break it down:

Conflict minerals are natural, raw minerals that finance warfare. Rebel soldiers, oppressive dictatorships, genocides, conflict, systematic rape, human rights abuses — these things are often perpetuated and funded by money generated from the extraction and sale of conflict minerals.

The four most commonly mined conflict minerals (known as 3TGs, from their initials) are cassiterite (for tin), wolframite (for tungsten), gold ore and coltan (for tantalum).

You can’t talk about coltan without talking about CONGO. The second largest country in Africa — The Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC).

By some estimates, 80% of all the coltan on Earth is in the DRC!

Companies rush to get a piece of Congo’s coltan. Mining areas are sometimes controlled by local armed militias and organized crime networks. They’ll do whatever it takes to control the supply chain and keep the labor costs down — even hire children as young as 6 years old. In February, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran a story on Congo’s coltan industry and interviewed a mine worker named Solange. She started working in the coltan mines when she was just…



Chika Oduah

Africa-centric news, notes and observations from a journalist | poet | photographer | filmmaker | writer travelling through Africa *