Coltan mining operators in the DRC are the most-publicized violators of human rights in the global coltan industry. Decisions made by technological companies using coltan, and the impact of those decisions on human rights, have dictated the health, economy, and social structure of the DRC. Conflict coltan mining began in the Congo; Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda have been accused of smuggling coltan out of the DRC for processing in China, then telling the UN that the smuggled coltan from the DRC is from their own domestic production. They have denied these claims. Child labor is common in Congolese artisanal mining. Tens of thousands of children work as miners; children as young as twelve working in some mines have repeatedly been documented.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says mineral activity should stop in the UNESCO World Heritage sites and in proposed protected areas within conservation sites, in areas with last remaining examples of unique ecosystems, and in places where mining threatens the well-being of local communities and indigenous peoples.
Coltan mines operate under boom-bust economics and not only strip the mineral from the land, but also cause environmental degradation. In mining towns that depend on coltan for their wealth, fewer people cultivate the land. Numerous instances of famine related to the mining operations contribute to increasingly unsustainable types for land use. Besides the harm it does to food security in the eastern Congo, coltan mining is inimicial to land uses such as ecotourism, game ranches, and medical research which could possibly provide better incomes and profit from the wildlife and forest land. Mining threatens the national parks across the Congo.