Laurie Garrett Discusses Indirect Role Of Coltan Mineral Trade In DRC Ebola Outbreak
Foreign Policy: Your Cell Phone Is Spreading Ebola
Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations
“…[The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ebola outbreak] is now on the edge of catastrophe that requires an urgent response. The most urgent of all is also among the least direct. It doesn’t involve Ebola at all but rather the inside of our cell phones. … Conflict seems to have deepened in North Kivu alongside the spectacular global growth in the mobile phones market, which has made the locally plentiful black stones of columbite-tantalite, or coltan, potentially more valuable than Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, and other minerals and gems. … Coltan is a heat-resistant mix of compounds that conduct[s] high-energy signals inside laptops, electric cars, and cell phones, allowing compressed signals to display videos and games without exploding and batteries to safely store energy. … The Trump administration, G-20, and OECD should immediately scrutinize the conflict minerals trade and the many government attempts to limit their use in cell phones and other electronics. Japan, as the host of the upcoming G-20 Summit, should place trade in coltan and its impact on the Ebola epidemic on the June gathering’s Osaka agenda. Unless the flow of cash-for-coltan comes to a halt, our cell phones will indirectly fuel violence and spur further spread of Ebola…” (4/17).