A report touts progress in curbing the spread of "conflict minerals" in electronics supply chain but also highlights continued challenges.
The hubris over "conflict minerals" has resumed. Several high-tech companies are being hailed as heroes for "pioneering progress toward wiping out the use of
conflict minerals," according to a Reuters report.
The Enough Project's annual score card for electronic companies trying to eliminate conflict minerals from the supply chain showed that many Western electronic manufacturers are earned top ratings from the industry body.
Perfect, clean and 100 percent legally-mined materials used mainly by electronics manufacturers from the Democratic Republic of Congo? That'll be the day! It's hard to imagine selfless electronics industry executives, sleeves rolled up, swatting away illegally sourced raw materials with the singular goal of saving the harried people of the
Congo and its neighboring countries from horrible warlords? The tittering you hear is coming from a corner office somewhere in Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Shanghai, or Seoul and
maybe from a treetop shack deep in the Congo rain forest.
One thing is clear: There are too many delusions surrounding the subject of "conflict minerals" depending upon where you sit in the electronics supply
chain or on the ground in the Congo. These minerals include items like columbite-tantalite (used in making tantalum powder for capacitors), wolframite and cassiterite. A huge chunk of global demand for these products are mined in the Congo, where most of the mines are either owned by or "taxed" by local warlords.
The U.S. Congress included "conflict minerals" in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act because it wanted to end the long-running wars
that have ravaged the Congo region, resulting in the savage treatment of children and others. However good its intentions, Congress has only waded into an
issue it barely understands and passed laws that while looking good on paper constitute a nightmare for folks on the ground mining the minerals as well as company executives
trying to avoid a legal and public relations nightmare.
The result is the farce called the Enough Project and other well-intended but misguided efforts to either help the people of the Congo curb their decades-long civil war or
keep Western companies' supply chain and consumer electronic products scrupulously clean of blood-tainted components. The report issued Thursday (Aug. 16) concluded that while "leading electronic companies are making progress in eliminating conflict minerals from their supply chains [they] still cannot label their products as being conflict
free." (Download the full report here.)
The Enough Project gave at least four companies -- Intel, Motorola Solutions Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Apple Inc.-- high marks for being "pioneers of progress" and said these companies "have moved forward to develop solutions despite delays in the legislative rule-making
process by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission." It also identified electronic manufacturers described as "laggards" that are "standing out due to lack of progress and
Before we tar and feather the "laggards," understand that most of us are most likely unwitting accomplices in whatever crimes
are being committed in the Congo. We may all be "laggards"