Tech firms rapped on conflict minerals

Technology firms including Toshiba, Panasonic and Canon have been criticised for failing to eliminate so-called “blood minerals” from their products.

Charity Enough ranked HP top for its work to prevent buying minerals from conflict zones in eastern Congo. Enough said the trade in conflict minerals “provides the primary fuel for the conflict.”

“Minerals extracted from eastern Congo — the ores that produce tin, tantalum, tungsten (or the 3Ts) and gold — are essential to the electronics devices we use and depend on every day,” the report noted.

Tin is used to solder circuit boards, tantalum is used to store electricity, and tungsten is used in mobile phones circuitry, while gold is used for wiring.

HP was praised for publishing its list of suppliers and for its support of the Dodd-Frank Act, which forces companies to reveal such data in the US.

Enough ranked HP, Intel, Motorola, Nokia, Microsoft and Dell as its top six, saying they were all making good efforts to tackle the issue, especially with tantalum. However, even top-ranked HP was only a third of the way there, the report said.

Meanwhile, SanDisk, Toshiba, Panasonic, Canon, Sharp and Nintendo received failing grades. “Despite significant attention in the media, statements from governments, and continued activism, Nintendo, Canon, Sharp and Panasonic still refuse to acknowledge or deal with the problem,” the report said.

Those companies had yet to respond for request for comment at the time of publishing.

Enough chart

Enough says such companies need to work together to stop the trade in conflict minerals by using their buying power to pressure their supply chain, the same tactic that has lead to improvements in clothing, forestry and diamond industries.

Enough also calls on companies to make it clear to consumers which products use conflict minerals.

“Although it will take a collective effort by multiple industries to curtail the demand for conflict materials, the impetus for such efforts will continue to arise in large part from conscious consumers,” the report said.

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