A video went viral on social media showing two men handling a metallooking rock in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the two ends of a wire are connected to the stone, a light comes on, indicating that the stone is electrically charged. The nature of the material and the origin of the cargo caused doubts on the Internet.
The impressive record led to comparisons of the material to the fictional Marvel Universe metal, vibranium. Although there is no confirmation as to the composition of the recorded mineral, the highest probability is that it is the socalled coltan. This ore is named for the two minerals that make it up: columbite and tantalite.
Columbite and tantalite are the sources of two important elements for manufacturing electronics: niobium and tantalum, respectively. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the country with the most reserves of these minerals in the world.
What is coltan?
Coltan is a source of fundamental elements in the electronics industry and provides niobium, whose applications include advanced metallic alloys used in, for example, the aerospace industry and biomedicine. Tantalum can also form similar alloys, but its primary use is in making capacitors for computers, cell phones, and other electronics.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a complex socioeconomic context resulting from the exploitation of natural resources in the country, and child labor and semislavery are used there, particularly in coltan.
Niobium and tantalum, important elements in the electronics industry, can be extracted from coltan (Image: Reproduction/ Click Oil and Gas)
The country’s constant wars are also a result of mining, as rebel forces organize to dominate coltan’s extraction since its discovery around the 2000s.
Brazil also has columbite and tantalite reserves. Thanks to them, our country is the world’s largest exporter of niobium and the second largest in tantalum.
Is it coltan in the video?
The material shown in the video has not been confirmed, but given the context of coltan’s exploitation in the DRC and its commercial application, coltan is the most likely candidate.
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