The Coltan Environmental Management Project

The Coltan Environmental Management Project ("Sustainable Restitution/Recultivation of Artisanal Tantalum Mining Wasteland in Central Africa") is a joint project of three German and six African research institutions funded by the Volkswagen Foundation within their Africa Initiative on "Resources, their dynamics, and sustainability - capacity development in comparative and integrated approaches" "Resources, their dynamics, and sustainability - capacity development in comparative and integrated approaches". The project started in August 2010 and will last for three years.

The participating institutions are:



Inaugural workshop in Kigali, Rwanda, 2-4 August 2010

The objective of the project is to analyze the environmental impact of small-scale tin-tantalum mining in Central Africa, and to reconcile artisanal mining with sustainable landuse in a holistic and participatory approach. A conclusive scientific understanding of the geological setup of tin-tantalum deposits, particularly their possible toxic and radioactive components, requires a chemical inventory of rocks, soils, waters and vegetation. Consequences for possible remediation mesures of physical and chemical hazards will be developed together with all stakeholders (local farming population, administration, mining community). The larger problem of the low nutrient status in tropical soils will be addressed by experiments with soil amendments, particularly with alkaline volcanic rock flour from the nearby Western Rift. We aim at bridging research, capacity building for young scientists and national institutions, and technical and policy recommendations at the local and regional level. Our research is accompanied by socioeconomic surveys and cost-benefit analysis.

The multi-disciplinary research group covers the wide spectrum from geosciences to agriculture to economics and is hoped to develop into a truely interdisciplinary team which links researchers from Burundi, Congo, Germany, Rwanda and Uganda.