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Intel Hardware

Intel Challenges Manufacturers To Avoid "Conflict Metals" 123

retroworks writes "Several news outlets report on Intel's announcement that it will avoid purchases of rare earth minerals and metals, such as tantalum, sourced from high conflict areas such as the Congo basin. Could this lead to manufacturers stating the percentage of their boards which are made from recycled boards, like recycled paper greeting cards?"
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Intel Challenges Manufacturers To Avoid "Conflict Metals"

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  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:49AM (#45915685)

    It appears the SEC [wikipedia.org]. 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 [wikipedia.org] to meet the demands of those customers. Other estimates indicate that the total number of US companies likely impacted may exceed 12,000

  • Re:no (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:50AM (#45915689)

    To some extent this strategy of simply labeling, as in differentiating regular from "conflict" or "blood" sources, sort of worked out ok for diamonds. Not completely, of course, but it absolutely helps.

    There's a bit of a difference between blood diamonds and blood capacitors. You don't actually need diamonds for anything. Industrial diamonds (which you actually use for useful purposes) are cheap and easy to get, since they're incredibly small (basically diamond dust). The larger ones have no practical uses; they're only used for jewelry. So if you want to avoid fueling tribal warlords, it's easy: you don't buy diamonds, and instead buy something else like cubic zirconia, Swarovski crystals, or other gemstones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, etc. (many of which are now artificially-created anyway).

    Tantalum isn't used for jewelry, it's used for capacitors. Not only that, it's used for extremely high-performance capacitors. So you could stop using it, and switch to other types of capacitors, but you're probably going to suffer for it somehow, because AFAIK nothing else can match the volumetric efficiency of tantalum at this time. You could switch to standard electrolytics, but those don't really fit into smartphones and iPads. You could switch to multilayer ceramics, but those probably won't give you the required capacitance, so you'll have to use lots of them, so your smartphone will need to be 50% larger.

    It's the same problem we have with oil; we can't easily switch to something else, or do without, without severely affecting our technology and quality-of-life, so we fuel conflicts in certain parts of the world which happen to be rich in that natural resource.

  • 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 [wikipedia.org]. 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.

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

    Fairphone, http://www.fairphone.com/ [fairphone.com]
    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.)

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta