If you own a PlayStation 2 you may have inadvertently helped spark a war in Africa.
As it turns out, the PS2 is made in part by an unrefined metallic ore called coltan, which when processed is reduced to a powder called tantalum. Tantalum can be found in a wide variety of electronic devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and gaming consoles.
According to the group Toward Freedom, the launch of the PlayStation 2 in 2000 caused coltan demand to soar. The surge in demand caused the price to spike, rising from $49 a pound to $275 seemingly overnight.
Rwandan military groups – seeking to capitalize on the price spike – reportedly plundered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coltan from the Congo region. Additionally, they took prisoners of war, including children, and forced them to work in coltan mines.
“Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms,” said Ex-British Parliament Member Oona King.
Sony swears that current versions of the PS2, as well as the PSP and PS3 systems, do not contain tentalum that has been illegally mined in the Congo. And the price for coltan has since cooled down to pre-1999 levels. However, there is speculation that “another Congo resource will take its place as the next ‘hot commodity’, and the emergence of another African resource war will not be far behind.”