For the past decade the search for a rare metal necessary in the manufacturing of Sony’s Playstation 2 game console has fueled a brutal war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the center of the conflict is the unrefined metallic ore, coltan. After processing, coltan turns into a powder called tantalum, which is used extensively in electronic devices including cell phones, computers and, of course, game consoles.
The demand for coltan prompted Rwandan military groups and western mining companies to plunder hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the rare metal, often by forcing prisoners-of-war and even children to work in the country’s coltan mines. So, not only now do video games promote virtual violence, they also add to real-world evils as well.
So why is the Sony Playstation the main point of this post? Well, after the huge consumer demand for the new Playstation 2, the most popular video game console in the world (140 million units sold), Sony required larger units of, you guessed it, tantalum, to fuel its massive output of electronic capacitors. This increase in demand skyrocketed the price causing more Congolese children to go into the coltan mines.
But researcher David Barouski claims, “SONY’s PlayStation 2 launch…was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan that began in early 1999,” he explained. “SONY and other companies like it, have the benefit of plausible deniability, because the coltan ore trades hands so many times from when it is mined to when SONY gets a processed product, that a company often has no idea where the original coltan ore came from, and frankly don’t care to know. But statistical analysis shows it to be nearly inconceivable that SONY made all its PlayStations without using Congolese coltan.”
I therefore, now support a boycott of all Sony appliances, especially of Playstation products until this travesty is stopped.