Finding “Conflict-Free” in the DRC

This entry was posted on behalf of Carolyn Duran, “Conflict Free Minerals” program manager at Intel.

In April of this year, I became the program manager for the “Conflict Free Minerals” program here at Intel. I “grew up” at Intel in the Fab development world, so moving into this role has been eye-opening One of the things I have been working on related to conflict minerals, is our effort to support in-region sourcing. Intel has been working on conflict minerals for a while (LONG before I became a part of the program), and it has truly been a complex, challenging problem – figuring out where the conflict minerals are in our supply chain, engaging with smelters, figuring out how to best ensure the minerals we use in our products are obtained from conflict free sources, etc. It’s incredibly challenging and rewarding at the same time. One of the challenges that we face is trying to find a way to source from the region so that we can continue to support local artisanal mining – yet ensure that sourcing truly does not fund conflict – either directly or indirectly.

In our pursuit of in-region conflict free minerals, we’ve met with the US State department, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) officials, non-governmental organizations, and countless others. Recently, we agreed to participate in a pilot with AVX to source, “conflict free” tantalum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This project, call, “Solutions for Hope” is intended to create a process that can deliver conflict-free tantalum that meets OECD guidelines. We are hopeful not only that this will work, but that we will be able to expand this to other metals and supply lines. The pilot has already started and will run through the end of the year, at which point the results will be evaluated by the participants. We hope to share some of these findings early in 2012. This is just one small way in which we can help establish in-region sourcing. I hope to be able to share more with you on this pilot, as well as additional efforts designed to support artisanal mining in the region.

Linda Qian

About Linda Qian

Linda focuses on CSR communications both internally and externally with Intel's global Corporate Responsibility Office. She graduated in December 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Follow Linda on Twitter at @lindalqian and @Intelinvolved. She is also active on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Instagram.

2 Responses to Finding “Conflict-Free” in the DRC

  1. We are assisting tens of thousands of Congolese artisanal miners who have been put out of business by Enough Project, Global Witness and the Dodd-Frank Act. Solutions for Hope Project is, unfortunately, making this worse, not better,.
    As you know, the majority of minerals coming out of the six mining regions in the Congo and the other nine countries are not conflict minerals. Most come from areas that have never seen conflict and even much of those from the Kivus are from honest tribes, not militia. All of these honest, innocent miners are out of work right now. There is a complete embarog of honest artisanally mined minerals. Dodd-Frank has moved them from abject poverty to utter destitution.
    As a result, the only exports coming out of the Congo right now are from your extremely small project that does nothing to help the 10 million miners the World Bank says get their living from mining, and from significantly increased smuggling (UN Panel of Experts) by the militia. We know of 260 tons of well-documented coltan sitting in tribal warehouses and another 400 tons we have not verified ourselves, along with production capability for thousands of tons per month – none of it is moving and these people are starving.
    Dodd-Frank has made it easier for criminals to export their coltan and has made it possible for giant corporations like yours to monopolize the entire mining industry in the Congo, while hundreds of thousands of people in the Congo are forced into starvation.
    We applied to iTSCI and were told they couldn’t help the twenty thousand plus miners we are working with to export their coltan. We have a fully OECD compliant process that no one will look at. We cannot get EICC to talk to us.
    People are dying. We have repeatedly asked Enough Project and Global Witness to take a public stand FOR the Congolese people and lobby for a grace period that would allow these miners to sell their coltan while a process is put in place, so they could eat again. Enough Project and Global Witness would rather see Congolese people suffer rather than do what is right and give them the opportunity to sell. It’s perfectly fine that the militia are exporting everything they want to right now (UN Panel of Experts data), but legitimate miners will not be allowed to do so.
    Would you please use your influence with Enough, Global and the SEC to require a grace period for Congolese tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold? And would you fund iTSCI to help legitimate miners verify their mines for the sake of the future of the Congo?
    This isn’t about getting coltan out of the Congo. You have demonstrated that is easy for a giant corporation to do. This is about the future of the Congolese people themselves. Time is of the greatest essence. Please contact me to discuss this further.
    Best,
    Chuck Blakeman
    Groupe Weyi Internatinoal
    Denver, CO
    720-641-2033

  2. Carolyn says:

    Mr. Blakeman, thank you for reading my blog post and providing your comments. This issue is very complex and we are certainly not experts in the mineral trade in the Congo, so we appreciate your perspective. Our hope is that the recent initiation of the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, which we are supporting in addition to Solutions for Hope, will provide further assistance in establishing conflict-free in region sourcing, and we will continue to support programs like this. With respect to your comments on The Enough Project and Global Witness, I have invited them to respond on my blog post if they so desire.