The link between the bloodshed and coltan is causing alarm among high-tech manufacturers. Slowly they are beginning to grapple with the possibility that their products may contain the tainted fruits of civil war. A similar controversy, after all, wracked the diamond industry in the late 1990s, when global demand for the gems helped finance civil wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and Liberia. Since then, the international community has clamped down on the diamond trade, imposing tougher import and export regulations.
But with tantalum, such regulations may be difficult to enforce. The market for the metal is based on secretive and convoluted trade links subject to few international regulations, and the ore is not sold on regulated metals exchanges.