Can You Hear Me Now?

As if there weren't enough reasons to get rid of your cell phone, a new study from the Worldwatch Institute reports that coltan—the mineral that keeps cell phones and other electronic equipment functioning—fuels violent conflict in developing countries. Global trade expansion gives warring groups easy access to markets, providing repressive governments and rebels alike with billions of dollars every year. "Most consumers don't know that a number of common purchases bear the invisible imprint of violence," says Worldwatch senior researcher Michael Renner. What's fueling the resource wars?

Diamonds. The Angolan rebel group UNITA made $4 billion to $4.2 billion in revenue from illegal diamonds between 1992 and 2001; during the 1990s, the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone made $25 million to $125 million per year.

Timber. The repressive governments of Liberia, Cambodia, and Burma made millions each year on timber during the 1990s—$100 million to $187 million, $220 million to 390 million, and $112 million, respectively.

Coltan. The Rwandan government reaped $250 million in 1999-2000 by selling coltan from mines in the Congo.

Oil. The long-standing conflicts in Angola, Colombia, and Nigeria are financed in part by oil revenues.

Source: The Anatomy of Resource Wars (Worldwatch Institute, 2002).

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