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I Know Its E3….but can we have Fair Trade Coltan?

June 8, 2011

When I designed Savage Moonone of the minerals that you mined from the alien moons was Coltan, this was a subtle attempt to link, via the game’s narrative, the mineral to conflict.  At the heart of Savage Moon’s story is that we (humans) were the baddies, taking resources from aliens to feed our habit.  The unspoken plot-line being that we’d exhausted the resources on earth…

It’s E3 now and the focus will be on new games and technology to play them.  I love games and I love playing them, so yes I’ll be seeing what is going down there.  But I also want to take a moment to consider that some of that technology is being built using minerals like Coltan, some of which is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo  – lots of which is being torn from the land and its people:

The major UN investigation into the war explained how it happened. They said bluntly and factually that “armies of business” had invaded Congo to pillage its resources and sell them to the knowing West. The most valuable loot is coltan, which is used to make the metal in our mobile phones and games consoles and laptops. The “armies of business” fought and killed to control the mines and send it to us. The UN listed all the major Western corporations responsible, and said if they were stopped, it would largely end the war.

So it is time we started to ask where the Coltan in our mobiles came from. If there was a will to know, we’d know.   We can create that will by asking the people who make and sell gadgets and electronic devices where the Coltan in them comes from.  We can take action to help those impacted by our digital push.

Its worked well for tea and the FSC logo worked well for wood (according to Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, anyway) – why not Coltan?

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