This week, the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, or CFSI, an initiative on conflict minerals of the tech industry association the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, or EICC, announced that, for the first time, there are now audited conflict-free smelters or refiners for the four identified conflict minerals: tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold. As the leading industry initiative on conflict minerals, this is an important development in the movement to develop a clean minerals trade worldwide. Smelters are the key choke point in the global supply chain for minerals. The basic concept is that as more smelters get audited in a stringent manner, there will be fewer and fewer places that smugglers can sell conflict minerals. So eventually they will be forced to give up, and the incentives will have shifted to transparent, clean minerals trade.
“This is a major milestone in the global effort to support an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For over five years, over 120 companies have worked together to identify and validate, via a rigorous audit, conflict-free smelters and refiners of tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold,” said Michael Rohwer, Program Director of the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative.
Currently, there are 24 Tantalum smelters, 9 Tin smelters, 1 Tungsten smelter, and 32 Complaint Gold smelters; a total of 66 smelters. According to Sasha Lezhnev, Enough Project Senior Congo Policy Analyst, “having conflict-free smelters now available for all four conflict minerals is a tremendous achievement that we've all been waiting for for years. It means that electronics, aerospace and other companies can make informed choices in their supplier decisions based on conflict-free sources, and it is critical that more and more companies begin doing so.”
The Enough Project and other members of the advocacy community and tech industry, from Global Witness to Motorola Solutions to HP to the Responsible Sourcing Network, have been working since 2008 to advance the efforts of initiatives such as CFSI. Earlier this month, tech giant Intel announced that its entire 2014 line of microprocessors would be free from conflict minerals, making them the first in the rare mineral-heavy industry to completely phase out their use in one of their products.
Emily Brandon contributed to this post.
Photo: Gold from a miner in Congo (Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project)