Global Supply Chains of Coltan

9 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2015

See all articles by Daniel D. Moran

Daniel D. Moran

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Darian McBain

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

Keiichiro Kanemoto

Shinshu University

Manfred Lenzen

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

Arne Geschke

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

The spot price for tantalum, a metal used in high‐performance consumer electronics, spiked in 2000, triggering a boom in artisanal mining of surface deposits in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The profit from columbite‐tantalite ore, or coltan, is alleged to have funded militants during that country's civil war. One warlord famously claimed that in 2000, coltan delivered a million dollars per month. While coltan mining was neither a necessary nor sufficient cause for the civil war, there is nevertheless a clear association between mining and conflict. In order to trace global flows of coltan out of the DRC, we used a high‐resolution multiregion input‐output (MRIO) table and a hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to trace exports through international supply chains in order to estimate a “coltan footprint” for various products. In this case study, our aim is to highlight the power and utility of hybrid LCA analysis using high‐resolution global MRIO accounts. We estimate which supply chains, nations, and consumer goods carry the largest loads of embodied coltan. This hybrid LCA case study provides estimates on illicit flows of coltan, estimates a coltan footprint of consumption, and highlights the advantages and challenges of using hybrid monetary‐physical input‐output/LCA approaches to study and quantify a negative social impact as an input to production. If successful, the hybrid LCA approach could be a useful and expedient measurement tool for understanding flows of conflict minerals embodied in supply chains.

Keywords: conflict minerals, hybrid life cycle assessment, industrial ecology, multiregion input‐output analysis, social supply chain, structural path analysis

Suggested Citation

Moran, Daniel D. and McBain, Darian and Kanemoto, Keiichiro and Lenzen, Manfred and Geschke, Arne, Global Supply Chains of Coltan (June 2015). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 19, Issue 3, pp. 357-365, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2619990 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12206

Daniel D. Moran (Contact Author)

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) ( email )

Høgskoleringen
Trondheim NO-7491, 7491
Norway

Darian McBain

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Keiichiro Kanemoto

Shinshu University ( email )

Nagano, 390-8621
Japan

Manfred Lenzen

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Arne Geschke

The University of Sydney - Center for Integrated Sustainability Analysis (ISA)

School of Physics, A28
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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