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Conflict Minerals: The Human Cost of Consumer Tech

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Showcase on Monday night, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that metals used in the companies’ computer chips are now completely “conflict-free.” Krzanich’s announcement has helped to raise awareness of the sourcing of metals such as gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin that are used in virtually every consumer electronic device on the market today. Many manufacturers use so-called “conflict minerals” that come from mines controlled by warlords in the politically unstable Democratic Republic of Congo who frequently enslave local populations to work their mines.  Moreover, these militia leaders – many of whom also exploit child soldiers and sex slaves – reap up to $185 million in profits per year from the sale of the minerals. 

While many allege that it becomes extremely difficult to track the source of these metals once they have been smelted, recent legislation in the U.S. has worked towards holding companies accountable for the source of the minerals used in their products. Beginning May 31st, publicly traded companies in the U.S. will be compelled to disclose whether their minerals are “conflict-free.” While Intel and several others have embraced these reforms, some companies have sought to challenge the legality of the provisions. On Tuesday, a U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia began hearing oral arguments from groups seeking to strike down the legislation.

If companies are compelled to disclose the source of these materials, would this information impact your purchasing decisions?

Mining smartphones Technology computers child abuse conflict

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