Recycle Your Cell Phone to Help Save African Wildlife!

Tantalum is a mineral extracted from “coltan,” a metallic ore formally known as Columbite-tantalite. Because coltan can hold a high electrical charge it is ideal for making capacitors. Thus, coltan is used in the production of various electronics including cameras, printers, video game consoles, computer chips and cell phones.  Reducing the demand for coltan may save animals and their rainforest habitat.

Most of the world’s coltan supply comes from legitimate mining operations in countries such as Australia, Canada, and Brazil.  But, the cell-phone boom in the last decade has encouraged upwards of 10,000 illegal miners to enter protected African forests in search of the ore.  The Democratic Republic of Congo has become a more prevalent source of coltan due to low prices that result from the illegal manner in which the ore is mined.  The Congo Basin is home to a quarter of the world’s tropical forests with more than 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds, and 400 species of mammals.    It is also an important refuge for three species of great apes:  the endangered chimpanzee, endangered bonobo, and the critically endangered western gorilla.

With illegal mining in African forests comes destruction of habitat and poaching of the animals living nearby. Reusing cell phones and/or reclaiming minerals from cell phones and other electronics can help reduce demand, and thus, illegal mining in protected rainforests.