President Obama recently signed into effect the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which will soon lead iPods and laptops to bear the words “Conflict Free.” Apple and Intel have joined the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition’s Conflict-Free Smelter Program to support his new law. While the legislation does not ban the purchase of minerals from the war-torn Congo, it will require all electronic companies who do so to declare it clearly on their audits. Those companies will also need to declare their purchases on their yearly financial reports. Companies like Apple and Intel, who will not buy products from Congo, will be allowed to stamp their packaging as “conflict free.”
The U.S. imports tungstem, tin, and tantalum, vital rare minerals for the electronics industry, from mines in Congo. The purchase of these materials supports the atrocities that have been occurring during the bloody war that has been raging in central Africa for over ten years. The new legislation equates the purchase of these rare minerals from the Congo with the direct support of rape, poverty, and war.
The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition requires that the processing plants companies buy the minerals from must prove that they do not source the materials from the Congo or support the war conflict in any manner.
While there has not been a direct ban on the purchase of materials from Congo, having a federal law in place forcing companies to admit to supporting the war is huge.