Your future iPod or laptop will soon bear the words “Conflict Free,” thanks to the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed by President Obama last week. Apple and Intel have joined up with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition’s Conflict-Free Smelter program to support the law. In short, the legislation does not ban the purchase of minerals from the war-torn Congo, but will require electronics companies who do so to declare it clearly on their audits (included in their yearly financial reports) while allowing those who don’t to stamp the moniker “conflict free” on their packaging.
The U.S. imports vital rare minerals for the electronics industry that are mined in the Congo – tungsten, tin and tantalum. But the purchase of said minerals supports the atrocities that have been occurring during the bloody internal war that has been going on in central Africa for over ten years. The new law equates the purchase of these rare minerals from the Congo with the direct support of rape, poverty and war.
The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition’s program that Intel and Apple have joined requires that the processing plants that they buy the minerals from must prove that they don’t source from the Congo or support the war conflict in any way.
Although not a direct ban on the purchase of Congo minerals, the fact that there is now a federal law in place that companies must out themselves if they support the conflict is huge. If justice comes at a high price, then I will gladly spend a few dollars more to proudly sport my conflict-free iPod.