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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Raimund Bleischwitz & Monika Dittrich & Chiara Pierdicca, 2012. "Coltan from Central Africa, International Trade and Implications for Any Certification," Bruges European Economic Policy Briefings 23, European Economic Studies Department, College of Europe.
  • Handle: RePEc:coe:wpbeep:23

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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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    Cited by:

    1. Larsen, Rasmus Kløcker & Mamosso, Christiane Alzouma, 2014. "Aid with Blinkers: Environmental Governance of Uranium Mining in Niger," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 62-76.
    2. Gavin Hilson, 2014. "‘Constructing’ Ethical Mineral Supply Chains in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Malawian Fair Trade Rubies," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 53-78, January.
    3. Pierre-Louis Vézina, 2015. "Illegal trade in natural resources: Evidence from missing exports," International Economics, CEPII research center, issue 142, pages 152-160.
    4. Glöser, Simon & Tercero Espinoza, Luis & Gandenberger, Carsten & Faulstich, Martin, 2015. "Raw material criticality in the context of classical risk assessment," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 35-46.
    5. Bodenheimer, Miriam, 2014. "Certifying improvement, improving certification: An analysis based on the artisanal and small-scale mining sector," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S9/2014, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    6. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:2:p:424-:d:130460 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Thomas Wiedmann & Heinz Schandl & Daniel Moran, 2015. "The footprint of using metals: new metrics of consumption and productivity," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 17(3), pages 369-388, July.
    8. repec:kap:jbuset:v:147:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2963-z is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:oxf:wpaper:oxcarre-research-paper-139 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Raimund Bleischwitz, 2014. "Transparency in the Extractive Industries: Time to Ask for More," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 14(4), pages 1-9, November.

    More about this item


    coltan; certification; central africa; raw materials conflict; international trade;

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Q19 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Other
    • Q33 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Resource Booms (Dutch Disease)


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