Addressing delegates at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas yesterday, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich, confirmed that the major IT company has for the first time developed a process to ensure that all minerals used are not inadvertently supporting conflict.

Most electronic devices, including mobile phones, PCs, servers, and the processors that power them, contain gold, tantalum, tin, or tungsten, referred to as ‘conflict-minerals’, and originate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The company says it decided not to simply ban minerals from DRC, since it would “deprive Congolese people of one of their few sources of income” but instead, it developed and implemented systems and processes to validate the gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten used in its products.

Looking to raise awareness, Intel says that “violent militias and rebel groups control many mines in the DRC” and surrounding countries, reaping millions of dollars from the sale of minerals extracted by exploited workers to fund conflict and human rights violations.

The issue has been strongly backed by Krzanich since he bacame CEO in May 2013 and ended his keynote speech by saying: “Two years ago, I told several colleagues that we needed a hard goal, a commitment to reasonably conclude that the metals used in our microprocessors are conflict-free.

“We felt an obligation to implement changes in our supply chain to ensure that our business and our products were not inadvertently funding human atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” he added.

Krzanich also used the event to call on the electronics industry to follow suit and “tackle this important global human rights challenge”.

The announcement follows a number of pledges from others in the electronics industry to tackle the environmental impact of sourcing minerals.

In July 2013, Nokia, Sony, Blackberry, Motorola and LG Electronics released statements reiterating their commitment to tackling the environmental impact of Indonesian tin production associated with the firms supply chains.

Leigh Stringer

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