lunes, 25 de mayo de 2015

The coltan

Borja, 3º ESO A

Coltan (or tantalum) is a black and opaque metallic mineral. It is relatively rare in nature and has gone from being a mere curiosity mineralogical to a strategic technological advancement due to their applications.

Regarding to the major reserves, are two totally opposite positions about where the largest reserves of coltan are in the world. A great reserve is located in Africa, particularly in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But in Australia; Brazil; Canada; China and some African countries like Rwanda; Burundi and Ethiopia are the largest producers of coltan. Russia is also rich in this resource, although its deposits have not been exploited yet.

Coltan mining is cause for geopolitical conflicts. According to international press agencies and the United Nations, the export of coltan has helped finance several sides in the Second Congo War, a conflict that has resulted in an approximate balance of more than 6 million of people dead. Rwanda and Uganda are currently exporting stolen coltan from Congo to the West, mainly  the United States.
In the coltan mines thousands of people work in conditions of slavery and only for seven dollars a day. What it is even less worthy if we consider that a ton of coltan is priced in 400,000 in the international market.
The Center for International Study of Tantalum-Niobium, based in Belgium, recommends international buyers to reject the Congolese coltan for ethical reasons, but demand does not cease and indignity continuous.

 A material discovered relatively recently is graphene. Although it was first synthesized in 2004, it was not until 2010 that became famous. It is too early to say that graphene will replace coltan, but among the many properties of this material some that are interesting in our case is that it has the ability to auto cooling, leads electricity better than any other known metal, it is very strong, abundant and inexpensive. All these properties will create longer battery life. According to forecasts, this may be commercialized in the next 5-10 years, therefore, the main application of tantalum can also be carried out with graphene.

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