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With his hammer Bill cracks up a cell phone to expose how our electronic gadgets rely on the mineral tantalum - mined as Coltan.

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Transcript I bought this nutmeg for about three bucks, but in the 17th century a small sack of this would buy a large house! Europeans thought it had powerful medicinal qualities. Because of its rarity, the English and Dutch battled for two centuries over a small Indonesian island - the sole supplier of nutmeg. These "nutmeg wars" decimated the island. This seems quaint to us: That an economy should depend on rare spices from obscure parts of the globe. Yet, our world operates in exactly the same way.

Many of our electronic devices - like this cell phone - depends on something call tantalum. This is a Motorola Q SmartPhone - one of the smallest phones with a QWERTY keyboard - a typewriter keyboard - my wife loves it because it fits her smaller hands.

Tantalum comes from the ground in the minerals Columbite-Tantalite. [Pick up sample, point w/ pencil whip zoom to it] The two minerals are so similar that they always appear together, so we contract the name to "coltan". You can see that its a gray-blue, very hard metal. To our world it is as magical as nutmeg was to a 17th century European. I'll show you how its used ....

... The United States produces no cotlan so for all of our electronic items its imported. The largest source is Australia, which supplies over half. Some is found in the Rift Valley in Africa. Like the nutmeg, Coltan has brought ruin to the Congo even though it produces only two percent or so of the world's supply. Battles to control the mineral have, by some estimates, killed about five million people.

Tantalum is used to make a key electronic element called a capacitor.

Its this yellow blob. [point with pencil so size is clear; whip zoom in] These electrical devices regulate the voltage and store energy in cell phones.

You can make them out of aluminum, but they aren't as small; so when you make a phone like this that has all sorts of bells and whistles, to make it small you need to cut weight at every point. Now, one capacitor doesn't seem like a lot, but cell phone giant Nokia says that every one of their phones has one capacitor that uses about 40 milligrams of tantalum; and Nokia makes 40 million phones a year. But in something as large ....

As this Playstation2 many more gram of tantalum might be used ...