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IT Industry Steps Up Conflict Materials Crackdown

A coalition of leading IT firms is accelerating efforts to ensure they do not source so-called "conflict minerals" ahead of the introduction of new U.S. legislation designed to tackle the trade in minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is widely blamed for fuelling conflict in the war-torn state.

The group, which includes Apple, Dell, HP, and Microsoft, as well as a number of investment and engineering firms such as Trillium Asset Management and General Electric, is working on a new supply chain mechanism whereby minerals sourced from mines that adhere to ethical and sustainability standards will be suitably labelled, and purchasers will only use smelters that have been certified as being 'conflict-free'.

Speaking to BusinessGreen, Tim Mohin, co-chair of the multi-stakeholder group and director for corporate responsibility at chip giant AMD, said the new system aims to provide a standardised approach for tracking minerals such as tantalum, tin, gold and tungsten, many of which are used in electronic equipment. Manufacturers will then be able to demonstrate that they are only sourcing minerals from conflict-free smelters.

The move comes as new legislation passed in the U.S. last year as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act is poised to come into effect in the coming financial year.

The new rules require firms to disclose their due diligence efforts when sourcing minerals from conflict zones. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings will have to include this information.

Mohin said the rules would not block firms from sourcing conflict minerals, but he predicted that the majority of firms would look to improve their supply chain management and due diligence measures to avoid complaints from human rights groups and investors. "The pressure of the sunshine will be there," he said, adding that IT firms were now leading the way in attempting to tackle the problem.

In related news, the Enough group, which campaigns against human rights abuses, last week delivered a petition with over 26,000 signatures to the SEC urging it to ensure that the final version of the conflict minerals regulations are robust and adequately enforced.

This article originally appeared on BusinessGreen, and is reprinted with permission.

Photo CC-licensed by the U.S. Army.

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