The Geography of Coltan

Congo’s riches fuel its war – Christian Science Monitor

Coltan – the article mentions several valuable resources available in The Congo: timber, gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper, tin, and coltan. What the heck is coltan, anyway? Sounds like a cross between a jazz musician and an anime robot.

Reading up on coltan using Wikipedia, I learned that coltan is what I thought it was: Tantalum. I figured it had to be tantalum because I knew that The Congo was a good source of tantalum, and since tantalum was not listed as “tantalum,” I assumed by its absence, tantalum was present, just called coltan. And I was right.

Coltan was once called “columbium.” Take the “col” part + “tan” from tantalum and we have coltan.

If you have a Playstation 2 at home, like I used to, or probably a PS3, or a Wii, or an XBox 360, or a home computer, or a laptop, or a cell phone – jeez, everyone in the world has a cell phone – then your life is affected by tantalum. Specifically, it is used in capacitors. And capacitors are found everywhere. Thusly, you affect and are affected by people’s lives in The Congo. Bet you didn’t know that, huh?

But look at the list again. Gold? Diamonds? Copper? The article says that “…the Congo should be one of the richest countries on earth…” My question is this: why haven’t we invaded this country yet? The government is weak, the countryside is overrun with warlords, the inhabitants have primitive technology. The Congo sounds like the Southwest Asia version of Afghanistan.

Oh, wait, no oil … Well, there you go. Jeez, if they just had oil. After completing the necessary paperwork, The Congo would be a good candidate for regime change. Kinda like a sex change, only everyone gets it, it costs a lot more, the doctors have to move in with you to make sure the change takes, and not everyone is sure the result will be an improvement, and eventually the body may revert back to the original gender.

And by the way, we are taking about The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest state (country) in Africa. The DROC is almost landlocked, with lots of militant groups running around the countryside, all either upset at the DROC government or at the government of a neighboring country.

To make things even more complicated, right next door is a completely other country, called “Congo.” To keep the two countries separate, we call the smaller one, “Congo” and the bigger one, “The Congo.” Must be an ego-thing, like Ohio State University changing their name to “THE Ohio State University,” because as far as they are concerned, there are no other schools in Ohio. The rest are pretenders. {Sarcasm}

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