Videogames have a conflict mineral problem – by Jini Maxwell (Arts – November, 24 2020)

On 28 November 2019, a post on the subreddit r/showerthoughts went viral: ‘lamps in video games use real electricity.’ The line quickly made the rounds of the internet, perfectly and whimsically expressing a hard truth around which there is a growing consciousness: while playing videogames might be a form of escapism for some, they are still part of the real world, use real resources, and are impacted by the unequal social structures of human societies.

It’s an uncomfortable but important thing to acknowledge: consumer technologies, including gaming consoles, do rely on real resources, and the specific minerals they require to function can stoke real-world conflicts.

This issue is so prevalent that the major consumer tech companies release annual reports on their conflict mineral supply chains. We’re going to examine those reports here.


Conflict mineral is a term to describe rare earth minerals that are used in a huge range of consumer electronics, including smart phones, laptops, tablets, any wifi-enabled device, and gaming controls and controllers.

The correlation between the rise in console gaming, and the pressure on the supply for these minerals is so stark that the Tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold (known collectively as 3TG), are sourced across the world – including in Australia – but approximately 80% of the world’s supply of coltan, the ore that is refined into tantalum – is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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