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Intel Chips to Be Conflict Mineral Free in 2014

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Nothing is easy when it comes to creating the computers and mobile devices we all use and love and the chips that power them. Most consumers don’t think about the variety of materials that go into creating the experience they enjoy when they sit down to a keyboard or reach for their smartphone to get directions to the nearest pizza joint. What goes into making those experiences work is in many ways similar to the workers back stage at a play or event. We never see them or really understand what they do, but without them, the magic doesn’t happen.

intelconflictfree

But some users care and dig deeper than the magic to find out what makes these devices beep, boop, and bop along on the Internet. One of the discoveries in recent years has to do with the source and acquisition of the minerals that go into making up these devices. Those minerals have become known as Conflict Minerals because thy are mined, primarily in the Congo, in places where profit is king and the cost of the human lives doing the grueling work to come up with the tantalum, tungsten and tin is unfortunately so cheap that it results in horrible and often deadly conditions.

In 2009 the US Congress began debating the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 that was first set aside and then included as a part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and signed into law in 2010. That law doesn’t restrict trade in the minerals but requires that companies disclose when their products contain these Conflict Minerals. Perhaps that is one way to stop them.  Yesterday, Intel announced at CES 2014 that all microprocessors  it ships in 2014 will be Conflict Mineral Free.

One has to give Kudos to Intel for its initiative here, but keep in mind there is probably a long way to go on the issue. As a friend reminds me every time he sees me use my smartphone, someone probably suffered horrible misfortune to enable you to use that.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

1 Comment

  1. William Quam

    01/09/2014 at 6:13 am

    It is amazing that a company of the stature of INTEL and a CEO of the caliber of Krzanich; who must personally sign the Conflict Minerals Free report to the SEC; would be willing accept the exceptional high degree of risk to the reputation of the INTEL brand by claiming their complete supply chain is free of conflict minerals.

    Due to the flawed nature of the upstream 3T&G mineral certification program throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa, it is currently impossible for any manufacturer who utilizes the ITRI “bag and tag” mineral certification and the EICC/GeSI Smelter certification programs (which exclusively relies on the ITRI “bag and tag” certification) to certify that their mineral supply chain is free from “conflict minerals” as required by the SEC, unless they are willing to ignore numerous “red flags”.

    The nature of the resource extraction sector in the Great Lakes Region of Africa where I have worked and been associated with since 2005, is one where the level of corruption and instability will not allow ANY company of the size of INTEL to “certify” with any reasonable level of confidence that their supply chain is free from “conflict minerals” unless they are simply attempting to take a mis-informed marketing approach that ignores the “realities on the ground” to a continuing problem that the international community has not yet even begun to address with independent, verifiable procedures that will withstand the rigors of the required audit based on GAO standards.

    Mr. Krzanich is advised to carefully consider personally certifying any Conflict Minerals Report to the SEC that INTEL products are free of 3T and especially the Gold conflict minerals components when in fact it is currently impossible for any U.S. manufacturer to do so with any acceptable level of certainty.

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