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Mining Minerals Extracting Conflict

Did you know violent militias and rebel groups control many mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, reaping millions of dollars from the sale of minerals extracted by exploited workers? Intel is leading efforts to help address the problem by eliminating so-called “conflict minerals” from the electronics supply chain.

Democratic Republic of Congo

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. 

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.

Validation for conflict-free

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. She continues, “Intel’s work regarding conflict minerals has been proactive. The company has not shied away from addressing human rights concerns with their supply chains.”

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