Eastern Lowland Gorillas

Eastern Lowland Gorillas





In the November, 2001 National Geographic Magazine I read the following words:


How many cell phones is a gorilla worth? In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, eastern lowland gorillas are being killed for food by miners searching for coltan, a mineral in demand for making capacitors used in high-tech electronics. Each gorilla lost diminishes the country’s potential to attract ecotourists.


The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to 80% of the world’s coltan reserves.


Here’s whatHelen Vesperini reported for the BBC a few months earlier in 2001:



In the yard of the Shenimed sorting house, young men are busy sorting and cleaning colombo-tantalite ore, or coltan, as it is known in this part of the world.

Regional analysts say the international demand for coltan is one of the driving forces behind the war in the DRC, and the presence of rival militias in the country.

First the young men toss it up into the air as if they were winnowing rice.

Then they sort it with magnetic tweezers to eliminate any particles of iron ore.

It is then washed, crushed manually in a big pestle and mortar and tested again for iron ore before being fed into a photospectrometer to test its tantalum content.

The men concentrate calmly on their work or joke among themselves.


Blood tantalum

It is a far cry from the drama of the “No blood on my cell phone” campaign that a group of NGOs and religious communities have launched in Europe to lobby for an embargo on so called “blood tantalum”, the colombo-tantalite ore that comes from the war zones in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tantalum is essential in the manufacture of electrical components known as pinhead capacitors. cell-phone

These regulate voltage and store energy in mobile phones, tens of millions of which have been sold in the past few years.

The European lobby groups, like the regional analysts, say that coltan production is fuelling the war in Congo.



I was so touched by this story, with its shades of ‘Blood Diamonds’ that I wrote a song questioning our relentless need for more and better high-tech goods like cell phones. Once again, it is worth being aware of the implications of every purchase we make. By the way, I still don’t own a cell phone and I don’t feel I’m missing a thing.



The song is called Lookin’ and if you click here you’ll get to a page where there’s a link to it.





Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.com

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