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Coltan from Central Africa, International Trade and Implications for Any Certification

Listed author(s):
  • Raimund Bleischwitz

    (University COllege London)

  • Monika Dittrich
  • Chiara Pierdicca


    (European Commission)

The exploitation of coltan in Central Africa can be considered a case of conflict minerals due to its nature. Many international organizations and bodies, national governments and private sector organizations seek to address this conflict, in particular via transparency, certification and accountability along the material supply chain. This paper analyses the international trade dimension of coltan and gives evidence on the dimension of illicit trade of coltan. The authors start from the hypothesis that illicit trade of coltan sooner or later will enter the market and will be reflected in the statistics. The paper is structured in the following manner: first, a short section gives a profile of coltan production and markets; second, an overview of the mining situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and related actors. The third section addresses mechanisms, actors and measurement issues involved in the international trade of coltan. The final part draws lessons for certification and conflict analysis and offers some guidance for future research. The paper identifies two main possible gateways to trace illegal trade in coltan: the neighbouring countries, especially Rwanda, and the importing countries for downstream production, in particular China. Our estimation is that the value of such illicit trade comes close to $ 27 million annually (2009), roughly one fifth of the world market volume for tantalum production. With regard to any certification the paper concludes that this will become challenging for business and policy: (a) Central Africa currently is the largest supplier of coltan on the world market, many actors profit from the current situation and possess abilities to hide responsibility; (b) China will need to accept more responsibility, a first step would be the acceptance of the OECD guidelines on due diligence; (c) better regional governance in Central Africa comprises of resource taxation, a resource fund and fiscal coordination. An international task force may provide more robust data, however more research will also be needed.

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Paper provided by European Economic Studies Department, College of Europe in its series Bruges European Economic Policy Briefings with number 23.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2012
Publication status: Published in Resources Policy, Elsevier, 5-year impact factor 1.190.
Handle: RePEc:coe:wpbeep:23
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  1. Collier Paul & Venables Anthony J., 2010. "International Rules for Trade in Natural Resources," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-19, January.
  2. World Bank, 2008. "Democratic Republic of Congo : Growth with Governance in the Mining Sector," World Bank Other Operational Studies 8072, The World Bank.
  3. Gylfason, Thorvaldur, 2008. "Development and Growth in Mineral-Rich Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 7031, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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