The Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) reports that it has validated conflict-free smelters or refiners of all four conflict minerals for the first time in the initiative’s five-year history, and is calling on more smelters and refiners to join the effort to become conflict-free by undergoing CFSI’s conflict minerals audit.
Understanding the challenges of tracing and determining the conflict status of minerals in the global supply chain, the CFSI developed an audit protocol based on global standards including OECD guidance and U.S. regulations. Audits of tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (3TG) smelters and refiners are carried out by independent third-party auditors, and smelters and refiners found to meet the requirements of the audit protocols are validated as conflict-free. The CFSI publishes the names of those smelters and refiners in order to facilitate conflict-free sourcing choices by companies.
This is a major milestone in the fight against conflict minerals, CFSI says. The four “conflict minerals” most commonly associated with the term are tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold, but the category also includes copper, neodymium, dysprosium, coltan (a dense, black mineral from which tantalum is extracted) and terbium.
A significant concentration of these minerals exists in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) near the Rwanda border, which has been at the center of a decades-long conflict that has claimed more than three million lives to date. Much of the violence is funded by the extraction of these rare earth minerals, according to a report to the United Nations Security Council Committee. Children commonly are forced into the dirty and dangerous work required to ready these elements for export.
“The recent validation of the first conflict-free tungsten smelter by our audit means we can now provide companies with information on conflict-free smelters or refiners of all four conflict minerals,” said Michael Rohwer, program director of the CFSI. “This information is vital to support companies to make responsible choices about conflict minerals sourcing.”
Having conflict-free smelters now available for all four conflict minerals means that electronics, aerospace and other companies can make informed choices in their supplier decisions based on conflict-free sources.
Besides the smelter audit program, the CFSI also provides a range of tools and resources that support conflict-free sourcing, including access to Reasonable Country of Origin Information (RCOI) data, the Conflict Minerals Reporting Template, which facilitates consistent sourcing data throughout the supply chain, and a range of guidance and analysis papers on practical conflict minerals due diligence.
Last month at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich outlined a range of the company’s new products, initiatives and strategic relationships aimed at accelerating innovation across a range of mobile and wearable devices, and challenged the entire electronics industry to join Intel in becoming “conflict-free.” Separately, CFSI has also called for more businesses to join over 120 companies from seven different industries to become conflict-free.