Friday, July 25, 2008

Playstation 2, Coltan and Congo Civil War

"Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms,"
-Oona King, ex British Parliament member-

Until mid 2008, at least 140 million of Playstation 2 (PS 2) are sold worldwide, making it as a best selling game console ever. Nevertheless a report which was issued by Toward Freedom, an independent media, had linked the success of PS 2 with the brutal Congo Civil War (1998-2003). Won`t you be curious to know what is connection between the two things??

It started at 1997 when Laurent Kabila with support from Rwanda, Uganda and Angola had successfully toppled Mobutu Sese Seko to become The President of Democratic Republic of The Congo (DRC). Unfortunately, the relation between Kabila and his allies (especially Rwanda and Uganda) deteriorated and turned into hostility after Kabila had expelled his Rwandan chief of staff. And then war erupted after Rwanda and Uganda assisted Tutsi Minority in DRC to rebel against Kabila.

Thats it?

Nope... in fact we are entering the main topic right now. The rebel was situated in eastern provinces (see picture below) which is "accidentally" very rich in ore called Coltan (Columbite-Tantalite). This ore is the principal source for tantalum and niobium (other name for columbium) transition metal which mainly used to make capacitors for various electronic devices. Interestingly 80 % of coltan reserves is in DRC while 80 % of coltan production comes from Australia.

Uhmm.. before we continue to the next paragraph, there is a little correction for image below, I think tantalite should be Ta2O6 instead of Ta2O5 :p Same correction is also applied for columbite :D

And the story goes....

Based from a BBC news article, The Coltan price was only $40/lb at January 2000 when it suddenly rocketed to $380/lb at Desember 2000 and by July 2001, the price was around $100/lb. This event will surely not be wasted by the rebels (plus Rwandan and Ugandan Armies who backed them) as their source of income. It was reported in DRC United Nations mission website that in 18 months Rwandan Army had made fortune at least $250 million through the sale of coltan, even though no coltan is mined in Rwanda

Interestingly, at that same time, Sony began to launch its phenomenal PS 2. I quote this from wikipedia :
Only a few million people had obtained consoles by the end of 2000 due to manufacturing delays.[8] After its release, it was difficult to find PS2 units on retailer shelves.[9] Another option was purchasing the console online through auction websites such as eBay, where people paid over one thousand dollars for a PS2.[10] The PS2 initially sold well partly on the basis of the strength of the PlayStation brand and the console's backward compatibility, selling over 980,000 units by March 5, 2000, one day after launch, in Japan.[11] This allowed the PS2 to tap the large install base established by the PlayStation — another major selling point over the competition. Later, Sony gained momentum with new development kits for game developers and more PS2 units for consumers
So, PS2 experienced a huge demand but there was supply shortage (manufacturing delay) and according to an established economic principle, the price will increase if the demand also increase. of course it was not PS2 who solely responsible for the rocketing coltan price. It was believed that increase in selling of mobile phone and PC`s also helped to increase coltan price.

Meanwhile Sony spokesperson, Satoshi Fukuoka denied that Sony has been using "bloody tantalum" from DRC`s coltan. After enquiring to their suppliers, Fukuoka stated that the tantalum they use is not "illegally mined Congo coltan". Nonetheless, he admitted that it is difficult to ensure not a single "bloody tantalum capacitor" is being used. I quote what he said in toward freedom website
"The material suppliers source their original material from multiple mines in various countries. It is therefore hard for us to know what the supply chain mix is," he said. "I am happy to state to you that to the best of our knowledge, (SONY) is not using the material about which you have expressed concern (illegally mined Congo Coltan)."
Is it true? I don`t know for sure...
I just can say, "The Truth is Out There...."

- Toward Freedom
- BBC News
- Wikipedia
- DRC United Nation Mission Website


Alamnur said...

ulasan yg bagus dari bung afzal... unfortunately there's little bit confusing in chemical part.. (gwnya aja yg gak ngarti.. bweheheh..)
nampaknya ada cerita yg menyedihkan dibalik playstation2.. lo yg nulis beneran nih jal?.. wedeyy.. salut! bro

Alamnur said...


Metallurgistguy said...

ya iya dong.. tp beberapa bahan gw ambil dari tulisan orang. Tp dah gw tulis di reference juga :D

well, I deliberately write it in English as a training to sharpen my english writing skill :P