Most electronic devices, including cell phones, PCs, servers, and the processors that power them contain gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten. Some of these minerals originate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where violence, genocide, and other crimes against humanity are all too common. Armed militias and rebel groups exploit low-paid Congolese workers who mine the minerals, while reaping millions of dollars in profits for themselves. These profits are often used to fuel further violence.
To help break this cycle, Intel is leading efforts to eliminate so-called “conflict minerals”* from the electronics supply chain. A simple ban on minerals from DRC was not the answer, since it would rob Congolese people of one of their few sources of income. Instead, Intel embarked on the daunting task of implementing a system to track and trace minerals through the highly complex, multi-layered electronics supply chain.
As part of the process, Intel conducted an on-the-ground assessment of the minerals trade in the DRC, and led the development with industry partners of an audit and verification system at smelters where raw ore is refined into metals. To date, Intel has visited more than 60 smelters in 19 countries to provide education on conflict minerals and encourage participation in a conflict-free smelter program.
For several years, Intel has co-chaired industry working groups on the issue of conflict metals, recognizing that broad collaborative efforts are needed to solve this complex problem. In addition, the company has rallied for cross-industry action—calling on jewelry, automotive, medical instrumentation, and other manufacturers to put the systems in place to remove conflict metals from their supply chains and ultimately their products.
As a result of its efforts, Intel can now validate that its microprocessors are free of conflict tantalum, and has set a goal of introducing the world’s first microprocessor that is also validated as conflict-free for gold, tin, and tungsten by the end of 2013. “Intel’s statements illustrate how conscientious corporations can be part of the solution to the problem of conflict minerals,” says Annette LaRocco, Research Assistant for the Enough Project, a group dedicated to ending genocide and crimes against humanity. “Intel’s work regarding conflict minerals has been proactive. The company has not shied away from addressing human rights concerns with their supply chains.”
* “Conflict free” and “conflict-free” means “DRC conflict free”, which is defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules to mean products that do not contain conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and/or gold) that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries. We also use the term “conflict-free” in a broader sense to refer to suppliers, supply chains, smelters and refiners whose sources of conflict minerals do not finance conflict in the DRC or adjoining countries.