Apple, HP and Intel land praise for efforts to avoid conflict minerals
DAKAR, Senegal—Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Intel have become “pioneers of progress” through their efforts to avoid purchasing minerals that fund armed groups in Central Africa, an advocacy group said. The Enough Project ranked companies based on the steps they have taken to make sure their mobile phones, iPads and other gadgets aren’t paying for the weapons used against Congolese civilians.
The group’s advocacy was instrumental in pushing through US legislation that has caused a dramatic decline in the minerals trade from embattled areas of the Congo. However, the reduction in exports hasn’t led to a corresponding decrease in violence—eastern Congo is in the grip of a fresh rebellion and 280,000 people have fled their homes since April.
Congo is home to about 70 percent of the world’s supply of tantalum, a metal used in cellphones, according to the US Geological Survey. The vast country also has massive amounts of tin, gold, copper and cobalt. Armed groups vying for control of these riches have used profits from illegal mining to purchase weapons used in attacks on civilians. In other cases, they have captured people and forced them to do the digging. Still, the idea that mining exacerbates the Congolese conflict is controversial. Many experts say the real problem in eastern Congo is the lack of a functioning government, not that there are valuable minerals there.
US legislation passed in July 2010 required American companies using tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold to reveal their supply chains in an effort to avoid using conflict minerals. Even though that law is not yet in effect, the Enough Project said its existence already had helped propel many companies to take action. The Washington-based group praised Intel Corp. for its pledge to produce a conflict-free micro-processing chip by 2013, becoming the first company to publicly commit to such a deadline. It also singled out Hewlett-Packard as “the most active corporate participant in a diplomacy work group on Congo.” The project also gave high points to Motorola Solutions Inc, Royal Philips Electronics, Acer Group, Dell Inc and Microsoft Corp but described other companies as “laggards.”