Apple, Intel Vow to Stop Using Conflict Minerals From Africa
Conflict minerals include valuable commodities such as gold, titanium, tungsten and tin, which generate massive revenues used to fund wars in Central Africa, and, more specifically, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Beginning next year, all U.S. companies will be required by law to disclose their mineral supplies and identify any purchases that may be linked to the Congo conflict. By agreeing to the Conflict-Free Smelter program, though, Apple and Intel have effectively given themselves a head-start, which could help mitigate future controversy.
Under the program, all participating tech companies are required to provide third-party verification that their processors don't contain tainted minerals. The requirements apply to all shipments of tin ore, tungsten, gold and coltan out of Congo or any of its neighboring countries. The DRC currently provides 5-percent of the world's tin supply, and 14-percent of all tantalum.
The Congolese government has been working with various international groups to develop mineral tracing and certification programs, but has had trouble severing ties with the various militant groups that are connected to the trade. African traders had been pushing for more time to implement stronger programs, as an immediate embargo would likely impact up to 200,000 miners, according to Pact, a DC-based group working to develop tracing initiatives.
With Intel and Apple out of the picture, though, miners within the region are setting their sights on Asia, and on China in particular, where demand for copper is expected to increase 7-percent over the next three years. "There is a de-facto embargo, it's very clear," said John Kanyoni, president of a mineral exporters association in the DRC. "We're committed to continue with all these programs. But at the same time we're traveling soon to Asia to find alternatives."