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Intel Challenges Manufacturers To Avoid "Conflict Metals"

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  • Call me when they get rid of the tantalum capacitors on their motherboards. Are there that many "conflict" elements used in integrated circuits?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by watermark (913726)

      Intel recently stopped making motherboards

    • These are the "conflict minerals" as described by Wikipedia:

      Columbite-tantalite (coltan) - this is where tantalum comes from, which is used in compact and reliable capacitors across many industries, as well as a carbide in jet turbines, drills and other tools

      Cassiterite - used to make tin, which is obviously used for tin cans and solder, as well as making fungicides, paints and PVC

      Wolframite - used to make tungsten, used as a weight in a variety of applications, and as a carbide is used in similar applicati

    • by Anonymous Coward

      PC motherboards you normally buy don't have tantalum caps as they are too expensive. The solid state caps that are getting popular are aluminium with conductive polymers. They have better electrical characteristic than tantalum.

      Tantalum caps are used for high reliability applications e.g. telcom, mil etc where you want something that last long (if you treat them right) and operate over a very wide range of temperature. Traditional electrolytic are wet, so they don't work well when the electrolyic freezes

  • I was made, for 100%, of recycled atoms and electrons. These, in turn, are built up, to a very high percentage, of refurbished star plasma. The energy with which these are being held together in molecules is re-used energy from the big bang.
  • by mysidia (191772) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:49AM (#45915685)

    It appears the SEC []. Has a rule requiring companies to audit their entire supply chain, for "Conflict Metals".

    These supply line traceability audits would surely present a very high burden of compliance, and high costs, for this extra bureaucracy, even for a company like Intel.

    Still...... Even if the company doesn't otherwise care where their metals come from, The SEC mandates independent third party supply chain traceability audits and reporting of audit information to the public and SEC and an annual conflict minerals report to the public, for manufacturers, and companies contracting an item to be manufactured.

    Then there are..... companies who supply materials to the “issuers” (but are not themselves SEC-regulated) but who will almost certainly be required to conduct conflict minerals audits [] to meet the demands of those customers. Other estimates indicate that the total number of US companies likely impacted may exceed 12,000

    • These supply line traceability audits would surely present a very high burden of compliance, and high costs, for this extra bureaucracy, even for a company like Intel.

      Really? You have reliable estimates of the costs, or is it just your ideology that tells you it must be true? Similarly, if we require all diesel fuel sold in this country to be ULSD, it will raise costs enormously. Oh, that's right, even the oil companies say it only costs $0.07/gallon.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Really? You have reliable estimates of the costs, or is it just your ideology that tells you it must be true? Similarly, if we require all diesel fuel sold in this country to be ULSD, it will raise costs enormously. Oh, that's right, even the oil companies say it only costs $0.07/gallon.

        Depends on the level of traceability desired. You want to know why a bolt for an aircraft is $5 each, versus probably the exact same bolt you can buy at Home Depot for $2/lb (or probably under 10 cents each)?

        It's traceabilit

        • You seriously think the only difference between aircraft bolts and hardware store bolts is traceability?

          Please don't act on your belief and put hardware store bolts into your aircraft (or even car). Also do a little research.

  • by ortholattice (175065) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:50AM (#45915697)
    Tantalum is rare, and it is a conflict metal, but it is not a rare earth metal []. Nor does TFA claim that.
  • Busy work (Score:5, Informative)

    by Christopher_G_Lewis (260977) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:56AM (#45915745) Homepage

    This is all being driven by a 2010 US Law requiring companies to track and disclose where they acquire gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten. These are primarily mined in the Congo region, and are believed to be run by warlords using the public as basically slave labor.

    While a good in principle law, it doesn't currently list "bad" suppliers, and really doesn't do anything but make companies track their suppliers. No penalty for buying from the worst of the worst, you just have to report it. And the "worst of the worst"? They're not stupid - they're reverting to well thought out money laundering techniques to hide their product behind "clean" companies.

    So this ends up being another needless law that requires companies to to extensive work reporting something that the bad guys have already found a way around.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      So this ends up being another needless law that requires companies to to extensive work reporting something that the bad guys have already found a way around.

      It didn't start out that way. There were punishment clauses and a mandate to create an independent body to review the companies being reported to ensure they weren't just laundering fronts. But then Republican happened and it was defanged and defunded.

      Your tax dollars at work.

    • So... since bad guys find loopholes, we shouldn't even try? If we extend that mindset we shouldn't have labor laws, environmental regs, building codes, etc etc etc. I don't want to live in your world.

      OR, we could see it as a continual fight. Something that's never won, but worth fighting for. I personally would like my clothing to not be made my little kids in some foreign country. I'd like the materials that go into my electronics to not be mined by slave labor. I'd like the products I use to be built b

      • by volmtech (769154)

        Of course you do. Children and slaves are highly productive workers. Slaves are many times more profitable than employees who are only interested a paycheck to support an easy lifestyle while slaves only require low quality food. As for child labor a healthy woman can easily pump out another one every year and they aren't intelligent enough to survive on their own and have loyalty to their parents. They also make great soldiers. Give them an AK47 and turn them lose. Their mothers are busy pumping out repla

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      Because all regulation is bad, right? Who cares about saving lives if it increases costs?

      Obviously the bad guys would prefer not to have to launder money. It's an extra cost to their business brought on by regulation.

  • by Terry95 (2690775)
    Like others have said people will buy the cheaper product irrespective of ANYTHING else - aka The First Law of Walmart.

    But if the SEC is going to make a stink about it the easy solution is to not be listed on an American Stock Exchange. It's funny really. We sent every job overseas so we could become the "Financial Center". Now we are going to drive finance offshore too. People, especially the US Government fails to realize that there are other countries on this planet, and not all of them like being

  • Expect large corporations to start looking for ways to make themselves look less evil while they cut their workers incomes in half.

    Note to CEOs: If you really want to seize some moral high ground, treat your workers like human beings and pay them enough to live well. You'll still make a shit-ton of profit and everyone will be better off.

    • I'll second this. CEOs, please treat your workers better.

      /gets on his horse. Ahem. I buy all of my clothing second hand because I don't want my dollar supporting a company that uses little kids to sew garments, or any other horrible practice. Shoes are hard though. I only buy New Balance, and only particular NB shoes, because they're made in America, (although any country with decent enough labor practices would do). NB has me as a customer because everyone else is an asshole.

      I try to extend this practi

  • ... it will avoid purchases of rare earth minerals and metals, such as tantalum, sourced from high conflict areas such as...

    ...China? Because, you know, they're fighting over those exact resources. It's just an economic battle rather than involving slave labor. Although I'm not sure you can say that the Chinese factory workers are all that much better off.

    • by unixisc (2429386)

      Actually, given China's human rights violations and their occupation of Tibet, until people are willing to oppose them w/ the determination that they had in boycotting South Africa in the 80s, nobody should really say a word about the African warlords. Only difference b/w the African warlords and the PLA is that the former is not sitting on trillions of $$$, which is why the West is happy to want to boycott them

  • by Herve5 (879674) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:02AM (#45916427)

    Fairphone, []
    And, the specs go much beyond just avoiding 'conflict metals'. For instance, the battery is replaceable, and there are two SIM slots that make the phone much more interesting to reuse in developing countries when you'll be tired of it.
    And, they considered a lot of 20000, then sold them all, then extended to 25000, then sold them all again.
    So, things are going well for them.
    (I'm patiently waiting for them to become compatible with the open-source Sailfish OS, and then will be ready to pay twice the current cost.)

    • by Burz (138833)

      This looks like a great product; been following it for a while now. I would pay a premium to have a US version of Fairphone, though I guess that would hurt its re-usability quotient.

  • We have plenty of rare earth metals as well as tantalum. They are not mined because of regulations, esp. from the EPA. As I understand it, rare earths are never mined in this country because thorium always occurs with them. Thorium is slightly radioactive. It's sad. Thorium is more common than uranium and burns cleaner. The DOE, however, has regulations from the 60's or 70's that only allow uranium to be used in this country. This appears to be because Uranium 235 can be used to make plutonium for we

  • This feels like the result of Moore's Law winding down. Intel used to differentiate based on transistors, computations, energy use, but now the best they seem to do in world where rates aren't skyrocketing is to say they make their chips / boards without using "blood minerals". Could also just be them responding to the pricing pressure that conflict and the dominance of certain countries like China has caused in the rare earth metals market. Don't buy those because they're bad (and they jack our costs)

  • They should also avoid unobtanium. Not even available in China, only available on Pandora.
  • They have stated to trade groups that they intend to drive increased consumption even if consumers don't need or want their products. IIRC, in one of their commercials they even accost a disinterested PC user and get her to buy a new laptop based on a bunch of new buzzwords that sound cool. The subtext was: You're in idiot living in a bubble if you're satisfied with the stuff we made for you just a few years ago.

    Intel and Apple today represent a nexus of the aggressive consumption mindset. Its not working o

  • New Intel CPU box with "Made from 90% recycled AMD CPUs".

  • This sounds like the opposite of a good strategy. I'd say that the purchase of conflict minerals is more likely to improve the situation than the ban will. It appears that such bans have decreased the Congo's legal export [] of tantalum for example by 90%.

    Given the expected regulatory hassles, companies are looking for mineral supplies in more stable countries. Legal exports (as opposed to black market transactions) of the minerals from the Congo, which supplies 13 percent of the worldâ(TM)s supply of tantalum, dropped more than 90 percent in April from a month earlier, according to the latest data. âoeAlmost everything came to a standstill,â says Paul Yenga Mabolia, head of Promines, a World Bank program assisting the mining industry in Congo.

    Note that a huge increase [] in the price of tantalum happened after supply was deliberately restricted.

    Often, and this is no exception, fads come with a hefty priceâ¦literally. The price per kilogram of tantalum imports to the U.S. increased by 170% in just one year. The rise in price was mostly seen in imports by air, as shown in the graph below. The average import price of tantalum went from $110 in 2011 to nearly $300 in 2012. The craze is continuing into 2013 as well, with January numbers showing the average price at $360.

    China also happens to be the primary source of imported tantalum for the US. Given that China is also alleged in my previous link to be the main destination f

  • Just like Walmart is never to blame for abused and / or illegal immigrant crews that clean their stores, I fully expect Intel, et al to hire intermediary contractors to acquire what they need - most especially plausible deniability.
  • The president of Intel is a woman. In too many cases, that means either she's like Fiorina (hiding unsureness of her abilities by abusing her subordinates) or makes chickified decisions like "no conflict minerals." No good will come of this.
  • []
    I am one of the people who feels uneasy watching this kind of stuff as it makes you feel guilty for living your life.
    However, watching this will probably make you feel a bit more strongly about the issue.

The F-15 Eagle: If it's up, we'll shoot it down. If it's down, we'll blow it up. -- A McDonnel-Douglas ad from a few years ago