Next year, U.S. electronics companies will be required by law to disclose and trace their use of conflict minerals (gold, tungsten, tantalum, and tin deposits that fund war in Central Africa). Instead of waiting to be attacked by human rights groups, Apple and Intel, and other companies involved in the Conflict-Free Smelter program opted to avoid embarrassment and ditch the minerals altogether—and the decision is causing some problems.
Conflict minerals are more in-demand than ever, with the need for copper alone expected to rise 7% each year in China through 2014. The Congo also provides 5% of the world's tin and up to 14% of all tantalum, an element used in high-tech manufacturing. As part of the Conflict-Free Smelter program, mineral processors are required to prove via a third-party assessment that their minerals don't fund conflicts in the Congo.
Now miners in the region are scrambling to find new, less scrupulous Asian buyers, according to Bloomberg. At the same time, traders are quickly trying to start programs that will track mineral origins before the U.S. conflict mineral disclosure law—called the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—goes into effect. It's a tight timeline—the law was just announced last July. Now it's forcing members of the mineral industry to quickly make positive changes to their business practices.
[Image: Mark Craemer]