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© Dreamstime / num007 Electronics Production | November 28, 2011

Clarity on 'conflict minerals' needed

In an opinion piece published in the Swedish paper Sydsvenska Dagbladet, an EU parliamentarian has argued that the EU should learn from the U.S. when it comes to stopping materials from conflict zones being used in electronic devices. We explore the subject below.

Nokia, Apple, Sony Ericsson... The list goes on. They all offer similar products with similar functions, consisting of similar components. All access minerals tarnished by conflict. The need to access minerals and metals required to manufacture technology devices has created a large black market. Gold is one of the components, required for the surface treatment of connectors. Tin, tantalum and tungsten are the others - commonly referred to as "conflict minerals". Tin is used, among other things, on the circuit boards in cell phones and computers. Tantalum is typically used in various kinds of capacitors. Tungsten is used in various applications, such as the mobile phone vibration elements. The mining of these minerals is a major industry that finances shady and violent activities – typically in the Congo region. Those working in the industry usually have extremely poor working conditions. Violence, war and rape is a common part of life in the conflict zones. These unfortunate realities are collaborated by several sources, including Amnesty International, who has conducted considerable research on the subject. But there is a difference in legislation between the U.S. and the EU in response to the problem. The U.S. government has introduced legislation that required businesses to identify the companies and governments they cooperate with in order to access minerals. Importantly, they must clearly state if their materials are taken from a conflict zone. The system is called "naming and shaming" and is designed to get consumers thinking about where their phones come from. The EU has no such system yet, but there is calls for a similar system in Europe, with voices in the EU Parliament calling for a law for all of the European Union.
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