Apple, Intel help keep gadgets free of conflict minerals

Conflict Minerals - Enough Project picture

Now we’re getting somewhere. Apple and Intel should feel pretty jazzed about forcing the electronics industry to take conflict minerals seriously and lending their support to keep consumer electronics supply chains free of the “blood diamonds” of the technology world.

Gadgets, gadgets everywhere

The past few years has been a paradise for gadget lovers. An explosion of smartphones, tablets, home theater gear and gaming systems has put powerful technology at the fingertips of the average consumer. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by market watchers. It’s only natural, after all, to wonder where the materials that make up this avalanche of techie wonders come from.

Well, some folks looked into it and the news wasn’t good.

Despite the environmental toll of digging up the minerals that make up the chips, mechanisms and chassis components of our gear, it’s compounded by a terrible humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s casting a unflattering light on manufacturers and threatening to undermine big CSR strides made by the industry in recent years.

It all centers around conflict minerals, a term that has come to describe metals that are mined from the war-torn region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which in turn, finances further violence in the region. Needless to say, there’s been little impetus to pick apart complex supplier networks and determine if the products you buy contain conflict minerals.

But not anymore.

Beginning of the end for conflict minerals

U.S. lawmakers targeted conflict minerals as part of financial reform legislation that passed last year. And as backers of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and Global E-Sustainability Initiative, Intel and Apple are two of the most prominent companies spearheading the battle against what Steve Jobs conceded is “a very difficult problem.”

Bloomberg reports:

Rules backed by Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Intel Corp. (INTC) to stop sales of minerals used in electronics from funding war in Central Africa took effect today, forcing miners from the region to seek new buyers in Asia, according to exporters.

“There is a de-facto embargo, it’s very clear,” said John Kanyoni, president of the mineral exporters association of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We’re committed to continue with all these programs. But at the same time we’re traveling soon to Asia to find alternatives.”

Good luck with that. Considering the new scrutiny that’s about to befall the industry, it’s unlikely that Asian electronics manufacturers that do business with U.S. and Western firms will touch the stuff and risk losing business to contract manufacturers that can offer assurances that they operate cleanly.

Just one request: A “conflict-free” decal on the box of my next gadget. Next to the Energy Star label, if you don’t mind.

[via Apple Insider]

Image Credit: Enough Project | Flickr – Creative Commons

by Pedro Hernandez on April 1, 2011 · 1 comment

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