The New Kid on the Old Block: Coltan, Conflict-Prone Minerals, and Post-War Reconstruction in Sierra Leone

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Coltan, Sierra Leone, Conflict, Artisanal and small-scale mining, Governance

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Mining is the core revenue source of Sierra Leone’s post-war reconstruction and development Agenda for Prosperity (2013–2018). This initiative includes large-scale extraction of minerals such as iron ore, bauxite, and titanium and artisanal mining of gold and diamonds. The government perceives columbite–tantalite (coltan), a high value mineral, as “the new kid on the block.” We examine the nascent coltan industry in Sierra Leone, particularly in the context of the strategic importance of its constituent elements, niobium and tantalum, and the historic illegal mining and smuggling problems in Sierra Leone. Despite policy and legislative reforms in post-war Sierra Leone to bolster state security and regularize the mining industry, overall coltan appears to be falling victim to the historic and traditional political, economic, and socio-cultural structures in Sierra Leone that perpetuate conflict, illegal extraction, underdevelopment, and environmental deterioration. The post-conflict reconstruction agenda responds to policy recommendations from numerous research efforts but more appropriate reforms and commitment are required.

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The Extractive Industries and Society, v. 3, issue 2, p. 316-319