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Intel Challenges Manufacturers To Avoid "Conflict Metals"

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the cleaning-things-up dept.

Intel 123

retroworks writes "Several news outlets report on Intel's announcement that it will avoid purchases of rare earth minerals and metals, such as tantalum, sourced from high conflict areas such as the Congo basin. Could this lead to manufacturers stating the percentage of their boards which are made from recycled boards, like recycled paper greeting cards?"

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NSA spying (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915531)

How about those NSA backdoors? Altruism, my ass!

-- Ethanol-fueled

no (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915533)

no, now shut the fuck up

Re:no (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#45915581)

Why did this get modded down? Tactlessly phrased or not, this AC has pretty much expressed what most of us feel - Who gives the least damn about "conflict metals" vs the price of their new tablet?

The only real problem with using raw materials from areas dominated by various tribal warlords comes from the risk of supply disruption. Anything else amounts to denying domesticated primates their reality-given right to treat each other like shit.

Re:no (4, Insightful)

erikkemperman (252014) | about a year ago | (#45915655)

Tactlessly phrased or not, this AC has pretty much expressed what most of us feel - Who gives the least damn about "conflict metals" vs the price of their new tablet?

I'm not saying you're wrong -- perhaps most of us do gladly suffer other people's misery if it knocks a few bucks off our retail price.

But I wonder if this would still be true if more of us were educated about the facts on the ground. It's easy to not care about distant people whom you've never met, or just absentmindedly heard about in the news.

To some extent this strategy of simply labeling, as in differentiating regular from "conflict" or "blood" sources, sort of worked out ok for diamonds. Not completely, of course, but it absolutely helps.

Majority or not, the complacent are a huge part of the problem.

Re:no (1)

erikkemperman (252014) | about a year ago | (#45915667)

I guess I might have meant "indifferent" rather than "complacent". Oh well, who gives a fsck.

Re:no (4, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#45915689)

To some extent this strategy of simply labeling, as in differentiating regular from "conflict" or "blood" sources, sort of worked out ok for diamonds. Not completely, of course, but it absolutely helps.

There's a bit of a difference between blood diamonds and blood capacitors. You don't actually need diamonds for anything. Industrial diamonds (which you actually use for useful purposes) are cheap and easy to get, since they're incredibly small (basically diamond dust). The larger ones have no practical uses; they're only used for jewelry. So if you want to avoid fueling tribal warlords, it's easy: you don't buy diamonds, and instead buy something else like cubic zirconia, Swarovski crystals, or other gemstones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, etc. (many of which are now artificially-created anyway).

Tantalum isn't used for jewelry, it's used for capacitors. Not only that, it's used for extremely high-performance capacitors. So you could stop using it, and switch to other types of capacitors, but you're probably going to suffer for it somehow, because AFAIK nothing else can match the volumetric efficiency of tantalum at this time. You could switch to standard electrolytics, but those don't really fit into smartphones and iPads. You could switch to multilayer ceramics, but those probably won't give you the required capacitance, so you'll have to use lots of them, so your smartphone will need to be 50% larger.

It's the same problem we have with oil; we can't easily switch to something else, or do without, without severely affecting our technology and quality-of-life, so we fuel conflicts in certain parts of the world which happen to be rich in that natural resource.

Re:no (2)

erikkemperman (252014) | about a year ago | (#45915825)

True, but I don't see how that is an argument against being informed about it. The quality of life we stand to lose for having suboptimal capacitors is trivial, even embarassing, compared to the potential gain in quality of life for some of the people at the other end. And my main point was, I think this labelling is a good idea because then at least we can't claim ignorance.

Re:no (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45916207)

Also, if you're uncertain that tantalum is so essential for your electronic lifestyle that suffering in war torn areas is irrelevant, it's good to know there are no wars in Australia. They're the world's major supplier of tantalum. Avoiding "blood tantalum" really is a matter of "sanitizing" your supply chain.

Re:no (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45916787)

Cool! Now, maybe you can suggest to those of us who support Tibet and human rights in China on how we can avoid any 'Made in China' items in our daily lives

Re:no (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#45918125)

Cool! Now, maybe you can suggest to those of us who support Tibet and human rights in China on how we can avoid any 'Made in China' items in our daily lives

Not the same. In Africa, the money from the minerals actually causes (or at least aggravates) the conflict. In China, the opposite is true: Rising wealth and engagement with the world is improving the human rights situation.

Re:no (2)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45918383)

See the post just below this by Curunir_wolf [slashdot.org] . The same argument you're making for China can be made for these conflict areas. The PLA ain't morally any superior to African warlords

Re:no (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about a year ago | (#45916541)

True, but I don't see how that is an argument against being informed about it. The quality of life we stand to lose for having suboptimal capacitors is trivial, even embarassing, compared to the potential gain in quality of life for some of the people at the other end. And my main point was, I think this labelling is a good idea because then at least we can't claim ignorance.

To me, this entire argument misses the point. It makes the rather untenable assumption that if most people stopped buying tantalum or whatever from a specific source, that all the conflicts there would be resolved and the people would somehow decide that they're going to just hug it out and be friends. It's easier to make that assertion with diamonds - there's a lot of money chasing them and you can point to specific thugs killing people over them. Not so for most of these rare minerals and metals. In fact I would think if the market dried up, the warlords would just move their slaves to performing other tasks, and working them even harder since there's now less money overall to fight over. In other words it makes everyone worse off.

A lot of these issues are caused by the way organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, and USAID treat third world countries that want to trade commodities on the global market. They are treated like the serfs of the first world multinationals. Focusing on specific commodities in specific regions does no good at all. You end up right down to decided you're not going to buy anything from anywhere unless it's a completely peaceful colony of the US or China. Maybe that's the goal of the multinationals, I don't know. But if you really want to fix it, you'll have to get rid of the petro-dollar and force the US to stop trying to be the world police and let every country govern themselves how they want and trade with all of them equally. Good luck with that.

Re:no (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#45919307)

In fact I would think if the market dried up, the warlords would just move their slaves to performing other tasks, and working them even harder since there's now less money overall to fight over. In other words it makes everyone worse off.

So your premise is that if slavery is less profitable, there will be more of it? I am not sure how your theory works. If we remove all the profit, will there be an infinite amount? I have never seen the Lump of Labor Fallacy [wikipedia.org] applied to slavery before, but it seems just as nonsensical.

Re:no (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45919695)

You miss his point. Once the warlords find that they can't sell the conflict materials, they'll not give their slaves freedom: they'll take them and put them to other uses. Make them work harder to make the same sort of money they were making when they were trading in the materials. They're not gonna reform just b'cos the money is gone.

The only way to really fix things is by force. But the last time we had UN peacekeepers in the Congo, they raped local girls, bringing the UN force into disrepute.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45919597)

Fighting is reduced when there is nothing to fight over. Additionally valuable resources bring in third parties interests, which fund better weapons. Reducing money in civil conflicts is good.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45916875)

I'd like to stop buying oil, which ultimately ends up in the hands of countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran, that are happy to find global Islamization campaigns and help create societies where non-Muslims would be second rate citizens. Where do I sign up?

Re:no (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45918281)

True, but I don't see how that is an argument against being informed about it. The quality of life we stand to lose for having suboptimal capacitors is trivial, even embarassing, compared to the potential gain in quality of life for some of the people at the other end. And my main point was, I think this labelling is a good idea because then at least we can't claim ignorance.

It's also (in the medium term) hopefully the case that the supply situation isn't static: It's not as though anyone has a problem with DRC-sourced minerals per se, they just have a problem with the endless, brutal, war and extremely crude (often heavily reliant on coerced labor) mineral extraction that finances it.

In the ideal case, buyers put enough pressure on bad-actor sellers that the economically rational thing to do becomes "stop paying an enormous price in blood and forgone human development for a deeply underdeveloped mining sector, sign the damn peace deal, and accept a smaller slice of a larger, safer, pie that will be available if the security situation allows neat stuff like 'infrastructure' and 'capital investments'". It's not as though the DRC doesn't want to sell minerals, or the world to buy them, we just want to shove the current equilibrium (which is hanging out at a particularly ghastly local minimum) toward a less awful situation.

The mining is never going to be 100% cost-free and idyllic, extraction industries are a bit rough on the environment and not exactly desk jobs; but there are countries that are built (in part) by their mineral wealth, and there are countries whose mineral wealth mostly goes to buy more guns to shoot each other with.

Re:no (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45915915)

So (large) diamonds aren't a necessity, but it is a necessity to make smartphones and iPads smaller?

Re:no (1)

gnick (1211984) | about a year ago | (#45917951)

...it is a necessity to make smartphones and iPads smaller?

Yes, because it's profitable. And companies that are less profitable than their competitors are pushed out of the market and thus into extinction. Smaller equates to being more marketable to a portion of consumers large enough to detmine company life or death.

If we all agreed that there's no reason my phone has to be 50% slimmer, then no it would not be necessary. But most people just think, "his is thinner and therefore better - I want one too."

Re:no (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45915925)

So...it's OK for people to suffer because: "My phone might be 2mm thicker if they don't"

Re:no (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45916171)

You could switch to multilayer ceramics, but those probably won't give you the required capacitance, so you'll have to use lots of them, so your smartphone will need to be 50% larger.

First, nothing in a cell phone requires high capacitance. Generally big caps are needed for power supply applications, but the amount of capacitance needed is proportional to current consumption and inversely proportional to switching frequency. Obviously cell phones don't draw much current, or the batteries wouldn't last. Also, low voltage switching (DC:DC) converters often run at several MHz these days, which makes the required capacitance (and the size of inductors) much less. At those frequencies ESR and ESL are often a bigger consideration than capacitance, and for that ceramic beats tantalum hands downs. I sprinkle little DC:DC's like that all over my designs. I can't remember the last time I used tantalum. IIRC most of the data sheets either recommend, or outright require, ceramics. Modern high CV ceramics are amazing. Lastly, if you really do need bulk capacitance, solid electrolyte aluminum electrolytics are a good substitute. Maybe not quite up to tantalum, but much better than the old wet electrolyte aluminums, both in terms of electrical performance and reliability/longevity. I used to use tantalum caps all the time, but I don't think I've used one in at least 10 years.

Re:no (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45916751)

Mod parent up!

Not only is it easy to boycott jewelry (like people did to South Africa during the Apartheid regime) - there are several countries that are major sources of natural diamonds and gold. Particularly Russia - unless one wants to make statements against the Kremlin by boycotting it. Which reduces diamond conflict to a minimum.

With conflict metals, like Tantalum, avoiding it could result in inferior capacitors, thereby either impacting the performance of the overall product, or making it more expensive by having to redesign around the capacitive limitations. For a company like Intel, it could either have its own materials research, or fund any university research into such materials, thereby getting an advantage over every other manufacturer, that doesn't have the budget to research for it. So if Intel discovers/prepares a capacitor that is a competitive replacement for Tantalum, they then get bragging rights over competitors who still have to live w/ Tantalum. Good PR, but I agree w/ the GP: despite John Doone's lofty statement, most of us can't bother about a few warlords in Zaire, since that would open whole cans of worms about every other supplier of every other alternative. Heck, the fact that most of us have resigned to buying 'Made in China' stuff makes it pretty stupid for us to be bellyaching about some warlord in sub Saharan Africa.

So sorry, on this one, I think Intel has too much time & money on its hands

Re:no (1)

erikkemperman (252014) | about a year ago | (#45919109)

I am not an expert on tantalum, but others seem to be saying that there are other, morally less offensive, sources for the stuff. But even if that weren't the case, I personally don't feel that a marginal loss of luxury and convenience on the demand side of this market is too high a price to pay for fundamental improvements to people's lives on the supply side.

Everyone is free to make their own balance for such issues, of course. But for many people the balance changes when they learn of the misery that others must endure to shave 2 mils off their gadget's thickness, say, which is why I think it's a good thing we're having this discussion.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45919607)

So sorry, on this one, I think Intel has too much time & money on its hands

It's exactly because they have so much time and money that they can choose to practice this kind of idealism. Who else would be able to do (using your example) the research into a competitive replacement for tantalum for capacitors and not go bankrupt? They still need a "valid" reason to spend that kind of money to appease their stockholders; trying to avoid putting money into the pockets of disagreeable warlords seems like a good enough excuse.

Re:no (1)

morgauxo (974071) | about a year ago | (#45917015)

Are you saying that the ONLY supply of these materials is in the conflict areas? I don't think that is true.

Re:no (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a year ago | (#45917239)

No, of course not. Someone else here pointed out that Australia is a big provider of tantalum.

All I'm doing is making the point that it's much easier to boycott some items than others. Diamonds are easy: no one actually needs them for anything, unless you buy that bullshit that DeBeers tries to convince everyone about diamond engagement rings. But materials used for technological purposes are a little different, and harder to work around.. Now, someone else here has pointed out that tantalum capacitors aren't as necessary now as they used to be with ceramics and solid-electrolyte electrolytics seriously challenging them (and outperforming them in some ways apparently), so maybe we don't really need tantalum that much any more, I dunno. But China has a big record of human rights abuses too, but good luck not buying anything made there. Diamonds I can easily swear off. Tantalum, maybe I don't need that any more, I'm not sure. But stuff made in China? Sorry, it's pretty hard to live without that since it's very difficult now to find things that aren't made there, and for many classes of products, that's all the choice you have.

Re:no (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45919859)

Yeah, all the idealists here outraged over the African warlords seem to have overlooked the elephant in the room - China. How do I boycott Chinese, can anyone tell?

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45918117)

There's a bit of a difference between blood diamonds and blood capacitors.

"Blood diamonds" is a scam by De Beers. They can't control the flow out of conflict zones and maintain artificial scarcity. Best I can tell, conflict metals is a similar scam. It's an idea started and pushed by people who will profit significantly by putting a competitor out of the market.

Re:no (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45918219)

There's a bit of a difference between blood diamonds and blood capacitors. You don't actually need diamonds for anything. Industrial diamonds (which you actually use for useful purposes) are cheap and easy to get, since they're incredibly small (basically diamond dust). The larger ones have no practical uses; they're only used for jewelry. So if you want to avoid fueling tribal warlords, it's easy: you don't buy diamonds, and instead buy something else like cubic zirconia, Swarovski crystals, or other gemstones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, etc. (many of which are now artificially-created anyway).

It's still fairly fucked up environmentally (as mining tends to be); but you can buy gem-grade diamonds from Canada (because the 'Kimberly Process' is sort of a farce, they have their own certification program) and Russia, Australia, and a few others have some deposits as well. If you are some kind of monster who isn't willing to tell your future wife "Your love is worth paying some poor kid to die for", you can buy those.

I don't know what the situation looks like for tantalum-from-non-totally-fucked-countries, though.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45918587)

"Blood diamonds" are especially bullshit because diamonds arent rare. The only reason they're expensive is due to De Beers' forced artificial scarcity. If I'm going to buy a diamond, I'd much rather buy it at closer to what its actual value should be, not the overinflated price De Beers thinks I should have to pay.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45916919)

Why did this get modded down?

Because it added nothing to the conversation and was abusive. "No, now shut the fuck up" is all he said and a guranteed way to be modded down, and if I were moderating today I'd have modded him down, too. Perhaps most of "us" don't care if someone suffers so we can have more cash but it certainly doesn't apply to me.

But before I can stop contributing to a problem I have to know that a problem exixts.

Re:no (1)

joseph90 (193138) | about a year ago | (#45918077)

What is the definition of a sociopath again?

Re:no (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45918139)

Why did this get modded down? Tactlessly phrased or not, this AC has pretty much expressed what most of us feel - Who gives the least damn about "conflict metals" vs the price of their new tablet?

As much as I'm deeply-not-outraged by AC, there is a distinction to be made: Everyone operates under what might be called 'moral myopia': things closer to them(either literally geographically closer, or socially/in-their-living-room-by-TV/etc.) affect them more, more distant things affect them less. This is just how humans are specced. Plus, if it didn't work that way, the utterly incomprehensible scale of continual human tragedy worldwide would probably reduce us to nonfuctional, catatonic shells.

Given that a mostly-landlocked war in the relatively hostile environment of central Africa is about as far from most of us as anything can be (some locations are more distant as-the-crow-flies; but handy services like 'roads' and 'airports' and 'enough bars and hotels to attract foreign journalists' don't really exist, so the area barely even gets written about or filmed), it's entirely to be expected that what goes on there would have vanishingly low moral salience for us.

However, people who tediously go on about just how much they don't care, and how these supply chain policies are total regulatory bullshit, and so on, aren't psychologically distant from the situation. (They are in fact more engaged with it than those who know little and say less, or even some slactivist petition-signers). They actually don't give a fuck, and overtly support corporate supply chain convenience and incrementally cheaper gizmos made possible by a brutal slow-burn conflict [wikipedia.org] substantially driven and financed by access to mineral resources in the area. That point of view is pretty fucked up.

(Now, one accusation that is probably valid is that Intel is being slightly sneaky here: Intel makes a comparatively small quantity (particularly by mass) of mostly-very-high-margin products. Their products do require a number of esoteric materials, and they probably could be making some greater amount of money if they just held their nose and went with the lowest bidder in all cases; but in terms of 'dollars in profit per gram of Tantalum used' Intel probably crushes almost everybody else, certainly the board-stuffers at Foxconn buying capacitors by the containerload to assemble boards, or the guys at Vishay making-it-up-in-volume actually manufacturing tantalum and tantalum-doped ceramic capacitors. Intel can probably afford to be pickier than many other players.)

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45918327)

You're the kind of person who'd sell an African the Rope they'd hang you with.

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45919971)

Vladimir Lenin was African? I thought he was Eurasian.

More seriously, there aren't African warlords in the West capable of hanging us. I wouldn't say the same about Jihadis, who are now all over the West, capable of doing anything, which they have since 9/11. Let's see all these activists - more often Leftists - call for a boycott of Islamic oil, and then I can take their outrage over 'conflict metals' more seriously!

Just the processors (1)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | about a year ago | (#45915549)

Call me when they get rid of the tantalum capacitors on their motherboards. Are there that many "conflict" elements used in integrated circuits?

Re:Just the processors (2, Funny)

watermark (913726) | about a year ago | (#45915587)

Intel recently stopped making motherboards

Re:Just the processors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915605)

They're not stopping using tantalum, or any other rare earth. They're simply trying to avoid buying them from warlords. Or at least claiming to. Who knows whether or not it just a case of ethical-washing?

Re:Just the processors (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45915617)

These are the "conflict minerals" as described by Wikipedia:

Columbite-tantalite (coltan) - this is where tantalum comes from, which is used in compact and reliable capacitors across many industries, as well as a carbide in jet turbines, drills and other tools

Cassiterite - used to make tin, which is obviously used for tin cans and solder, as well as making fungicides, paints and PVC

Wolframite - used to make tungsten, used as a weight in a variety of applications, and as a carbide is used in similar applications to tantalum. Also has some limited use in electronics, such as cell phone vibrators

Gold - sees all sorts of usage in electronics and other applications in addition to its ancient usage as jewelry

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45918235)

Yes, these are the four materials involved. They were added to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street/Consumer Protection Act, and cover these materials coming from the Congo.

This has become very common to investigate in my industry (aerospace). All the major primes (Rolls-Royce, GE, etc...) are flowing down disclosure forms to ensure that suppliers are not using any of these materials sourced from the conflict area. Suppliers have to investigate and return declarations that they use conflict-free sources.

I am sure this is the same thing Intel and the computer industry is going through. It is not industry specific.

Re:Just the processors (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917503)

PC motherboards you normally buy don't have tantalum caps as they are too expensive. The solid state caps that are getting popular are aluminium with conductive polymers. They have better electrical characteristic than tantalum.

Tantalum caps are used for high reliability applications e.g. telcom, mil etc where you want something that last long (if you treat them right) and operate over a very wide range of temperature. Traditional electrolytic are wet, so they don't work well when the electrolyic freezes. Ceramic caps can crack under shock/vibrations/temperature expansions, so you don't want them too large.

The real headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915553)

Intel have developed a new technology that avoids the use of conflict metals, but it has no economic benefits, so now they try to portray themselves as the good guys.

Re:The real headline... (4, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#45915597)

Hooray, activism works.

Seriously, simply by trying to avoid conflict minerals, they are already helping to stop fueling those regional wars. Does that make them "good guys"? It makes them "better than they were before." Which is a good thing.

Nobody's always perfect, so we should at least celebrate a little when someone improves.

Re:The real headline... (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | about a year ago | (#45916505)

I suspect that it won't stop these regional wars, humans will ALWAYS find something to fight over.

Even if it's because Group A worships God A, and Group B worhios God B. . . .

Re:The real headline... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45916637)

humans will ALWAYS find something to fight over

Since they'll never be peace on earth, it doesn't matter how much war on earth there is?

Re:The real headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45918625)

I suspect that it won't stop these regional wars, humans will ALWAYS find something to fight over.

Even if it's because Group A worships God A, and Group B worhios God B. . . .

The worst part is that God A, God B, and God C are all the same God.

Re:The real headline... (1)

loonycyborg (1262242) | about a year ago | (#45917937)

I don't think it's a real improvement. Minerals is only one aspect fueling those wars, the other one being national feuds. If every source of important minerals could spark such conflicts alone then the entire world would be one big area of non-stop warfare. The only way that'll actually work is to resolve tensions between ethnic groups, if you go for minerals instead they'll just find another excuse to fight each other.

Re:The real headline... (2)

spectrum- (158197) | about a year ago | (#45915621)

First adopters of a new "method" like this may not have any economic benefits now, as they offset investment in R&D overheads etc. But in time with economies of scale it'll probably make for cheaper/quicker/easier production. They'll probably re-licence their conflict free production methods to other brands as social pressure grows and then that's where they'll likely make a profit. Money drives these things ultimately in big businesses even if it's being sold to the consumer with a warm fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing.

Re:The real headline... (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45915639)

If it's anything like "conflict-free diamonds", it will find a pretty big niche among people who care more about feeling like they're helping and less about actually helping. For the most part, the only reliably conflict-free diamonds are lab created ones. Even Canadian diamonds have been traced as going back to pay African warlords.

Re:The real headline... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915653)

Obama is a warlord, same as any other ruler waging war around the world.

Re:The real headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917069)

Land of the brave, enemy number one: the truth.

Re:The real headline... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#45915659)

Even Canadian diamonds have been traced as going back to pay African warlords.

If you trace it enough couldn't this be said for darn near ANY purchase, much like how we can detect cocaine on any given bill that's not fresh from the mint?

Re:The real headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915767)

Diamonds are already a scam, the best thing to do would be to refrain from any purchases of them to break up the cartel behind them.

Fortunately this is easy for most Slashdotters, they won't be buying any rings, except maybe a Tolkien reproduction.

Re:The real headline... (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#45916009)

Exactly.

There has been a long campaign to convince people that you shouldn't sell them on. [theatlantic.com]

Why? Because they are virtually indestructible. There must be enough diamond jewellery out there for everyone by now....

Re:The real headline... (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45916955)

It'd be fine if that were the idea, but here's a question: what if those conflicts suddenly stopped? Would there be any reason to prefer the new materials over Tantalum?

If yeah, just state it and go ahead w/ its R&D. If no, avoid using the justification of avoiding 'conflict materials' and just internally go ahead and do it, if they really believe in it and it makes them feel better.

new format not working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915575)

no way to sign in now?

Re:new format not working (1)

dohzer (867770) | about a year ago | (#45915607)

You've got to find a security flaw and hack your way in. Slashdot is now an exclusive club.

Re:new format not working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915661)

Slashdot is now an exclusive club.

Yeah? Then call me Woody Allen [goodreads.com]

Re:new format not working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915841)

no way to sign in now?

Try deletin' your cookiez, yo.

Let me be the first to post a selfie on this topic (0)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#45915601)

I was made, for 100%, of recycled atoms and electrons. These, in turn, are built up, to a very high percentage, of refurbished star plasma. The energy with which these are being held together in molecules is re-used energy from the big bang.

Re:Let me be the first to post a selfie on this to (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915677)

Shut up.

I call bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45915603)

I'm 100% sure this has nothing to do with bleeding hearts and "think of the children in africa" BS.
Intel saw an opportunity to scavenge in Congo but got burned. Now they are retaliating, by showing their economical powers. But, they'll be back and they will get their price.

Perhaps this will simplify their reporting? (4, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#45915685)

It appears the SEC [wikipedia.org] . Has a rule requiring companies to audit their entire supply chain, for "Conflict Metals".

These supply line traceability audits would surely present a very high burden of compliance, and high costs, for this extra bureaucracy, even for a company like Intel.

Still...... Even if the company doesn't otherwise care where their metals come from, The SEC mandates independent third party supply chain traceability audits and reporting of audit information to the public and SEC and an annual conflict minerals report to the public, for manufacturers, and companies contracting an item to be manufactured.

Then there are..... companies who supply materials to the “issuers” (but are not themselves SEC-regulated) but who will almost certainly be required to conduct conflict minerals audits [wikipedia.org] to meet the demands of those customers. Other estimates indicate that the total number of US companies likely impacted may exceed 12,000

Re:Perhaps this will simplify their reporting? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45916317)

These supply line traceability audits would surely present a very high burden of compliance, and high costs, for this extra bureaucracy, even for a company like Intel.

Really? You have reliable estimates of the costs, or is it just your ideology that tells you it must be true? Similarly, if we require all diesel fuel sold in this country to be ULSD, it will raise costs enormously. Oh, that's right, even the oil companies say it only costs $0.07/gallon.

Tantalum is not a rare earth metal (3, Informative)

ortholattice (175065) | about a year ago | (#45915697)

Tantalum is rare, and it is a conflict metal, but it is not a rare earth metal [wikipedia.org] . Nor does TFA claim that.

Re:Tantalum is not a rare earth metal (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | about a year ago | (#45916447)

But tantalum is so tantalizing !

Intel should act ethically (-1, Flamebait)

ikhider (2837593) | about a year ago | (#45915701)

If Intel wants to be concerned about not being involved with conflict zones, then that should extend to all areas. Intel manufactures on land seized from Palestinians, despite UN Resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from said land. Intel is a major supporter of Israel, who has pretty much made sure that a viable Palestinian state is no longer possible. If Intel wants to be ethical, than go all the way, not partially. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/may/08/stephen-hawking-hypocrisy-israel-boycott [theguardian.com] For more information on the State of Israel, this is a good start, Noam Chomsky's 'Fateful Triangle': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fateful_Triangle [wikipedia.org]

Re:Intel should act ethically (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45915763)

In a world where companies rarely go all-in on something new, isn't partially better than the only other practical alternative of not at all? Besides, it's almost impossible to be 100% ethical in every single thing you do, as you'll quickly find your bottom line nickled and dimed away.

Re:Intel should act ethically (1)

ikhider (2837593) | about a year ago | (#45915815)

The point Intel marketing seemed to make was not to get involved with conflict zones, when in fact they are neck-deep in one of the biggest ones all along.

Re:Intel should act ethically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917119)

The ones in conflict zones are those who are happy to do business in Arab countries and make them more economically powerful and capable of spreading Jihadi ideology worldwide. Like the ones you espouse.

Re:Intel should act ethically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917051)

Mod parent 'flamebait'!

Oh, please, spare us the Muzzie propaganda about the Jooooooooooooooos. There was never any 'Palestine' - throughout its Arab/Ottoman domination, it was either a part of Egypt or Syria. The whole 'Palestine' campaign is a code for wiping out Israel as a nation, and replacing it with a Jihadi state run by Hamas, like the regime that briefly took over Egypt, and currently runs Libya.

Noam Chomsky, despite his Semitic ethnicity, is a rabid suck-up for previously Communists, and currently, Jihadis. There is no enemy of the US that he doesn't love

Busy work (4, Informative)

Christopher_G_Lewis (260977) | about a year ago | (#45915745)

This is all being driven by a 2010 US Law requiring companies to track and disclose where they acquire gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten. These are primarily mined in the Congo region, and are believed to be run by warlords using the public as basically slave labor.

While a good in principle law, it doesn't currently list "bad" suppliers, and really doesn't do anything but make companies track their suppliers. No penalty for buying from the worst of the worst, you just have to report it. And the "worst of the worst"? They're not stupid - they're reverting to well thought out money laundering techniques to hide their product behind "clean" companies.

So this ends up being another needless law that requires companies to to extensive work reporting something that the bad guys have already found a way around.

Re:Busy work (1, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#45916221)

So this ends up being another needless law that requires companies to to extensive work reporting something that the bad guys have already found a way around.

It didn't start out that way. There were punishment clauses and a mandate to create an independent body to review the companies being reported to ensure they weren't just laundering fronts. But then Republican happened and it was defanged and defunded.

Your tax dollars at work.

Re:Busy work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45916237)

Sounds like the law was financed by the chinese government. Now we pretty much HAVE to buy from china. They're one of the few rare earth suppliers and also their companies have no problems forging documents where their minerals came from.

I think this is coming about because gold wire is becoming obsolete vs palladium coated copper.

Re:Busy work (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#45916693)

Sounds like the law was financed by the chinese government. Now we pretty much HAVE to buy from china. They're one of the few rare earth suppliers and also their companies have no problems forging documents where their minerals came from.

Tantalum is not a rare earth, and Australia is the world's largest tantalum supplier.

Re:Busy work (1)

whistlingtony (691548) | about a year ago | (#45918189)

So... since bad guys find loopholes, we shouldn't even try? If we extend that mindset we shouldn't have labor laws, environmental regs, building codes, etc etc etc. I don't want to live in your world.

OR, we could see it as a continual fight. Something that's never won, but worth fighting for. I personally would like my clothing to not be made my little kids in some foreign country. I'd like the materials that go into my electronics to not be mined by slave labor. I'd like the products I use to be built by people making a decent living wage. I'm quite willing to fight for that. I like my world better.

Re:Busy work (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about a year ago | (#45918849)

Because all regulation is bad, right? Who cares about saving lives if it increases costs?

Obviously the bad guys would prefer not to have to launder money. It's an extra cost to their business brought on by regulation.

Re: Busy work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45919073)

As long as it provides jobs for liberal arts majors with ties to the "human rights" business it's a good thing. Not everybody has the skill set to be a barrista. So it's good for there to be gainful employment for regulatory bureaucrats.

I'd like to avoid it too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45916031)

I'm sitting at my desk doing conflict minerals paperwork so I'm getting a kick out of this.

After the fact. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45916141)

After years of profiting of conflict resources they finally have enough money to get their sources elsewhere, now claiming they have no dirt on their hands but others do. Great move.

Jobs (1)

Terry95 (2690775) | about a year ago | (#45916215)

Like others have said people will buy the cheaper product irrespective of ANYTHING else - aka The First Law of Walmart.

But if the SEC is going to make a stink about it the easy solution is to not be listed on an American Stock Exchange. It's funny really. We sent every job overseas so we could become the "Financial Center". Now we are going to drive finance offshore too. People, especially the US Government fails to realize that there are other countries on this planet, and not all of them like being our sheep.

damage control (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#45916247)

Expect large corporations to start looking for ways to make themselves look less evil while they cut their workers incomes in half.

Note to CEOs: If you really want to seize some moral high ground, treat your workers like human beings and pay them enough to live well. You'll still make a shit-ton of profit and everyone will be better off.

Re:damage control (1)

whistlingtony (691548) | about a year ago | (#45918245)

I'll second this. CEOs, please treat your workers better.

/gets on his horse. Ahem. I buy all of my clothing second hand because I don't want my dollar supporting a company that uses little kids to sew garments, or any other horrible practice. Shoes are hard though. I only buy New Balance, and only particular NB shoes, because they're made in America, (although any country with decent enough labor practices would do). NB has me as a customer because everyone else is an asshole.

I try to extend this practice to everything I consume. Food. Cars. Lumber. Electricity. Gasoline is a tough one.... Anyway. There are people willing to vote with their dollar and good corporate behavior is rewarded.

Such as? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year ago | (#45916295)

... it will avoid purchases of rare earth minerals and metals, such as tantalum, sourced from high conflict areas such as...

...China? Because, you know, they're fighting over those exact resources. It's just an economic battle rather than involving slave labor. Although I'm not sure you can say that the Chinese factory workers are all that much better off.

Re:Such as? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#45917213)

Actually, given China's human rights violations and their occupation of Tibet, until people are willing to oppose them w/ the determination that they had in boycotting South Africa in the 80s, nobody should really say a word about the African warlords. Only difference b/w the African warlords and the PLA is that the former is not sitting on trillions of $$$, which is why the West is happy to want to boycott them

In Europe we have a full GSM phone doing that (3, Informative)

Herve5 (879674) | about a year ago | (#45916427)

Fairphone, http://www.fairphone.com/ [fairphone.com]
And, the specs go much beyond just avoiding 'conflict metals'. For instance, the battery is replaceable, and there are two SIM slots that make the phone much more interesting to reuse in developing countries when you'll be tired of it.
And, they considered a lot of 20000, then sold them all, then extended to 25000, then sold them all again.
So, things are going well for them.
(I'm patiently waiting for them to become compatible with the open-source Sailfish OS, and then will be ready to pay twice the current cost.)

Re:In Europe we have a full GSM phone doing that (1)

Burz (138833) | about a year ago | (#45917915)

This looks like a great product; been following it for a while now. I would pay a premium to have a US version of Fairphone, though I guess that would hurt its re-usability quotient.

It's the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45916833)

http://www.sec.gov/News/PressRelease/Detail/PressRelease/1365171484002#.UtATankrfwI

Why not get them here (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about a year ago | (#45916983)

We have plenty of rare earth metals as well as tantalum. They are not mined because of regulations, esp. from the EPA. As I understand it, rare earths are never mined in this country because thorium always occurs with them. Thorium is slightly radioactive. It's sad. Thorium is more common than uranium and burns cleaner. The DOE, however, has regulations from the 60's or 70's that only allow uranium to be used in this country. This appears to be because Uranium 235 can be used to make plutonium for weapons. Yet Thorium is much safer.

When Thorium is hit with a neutron, it gives off two neutrons (continuing the reaction) and turns into Uranium 234, which is fissionable. Uranium 234 burns cleaner and does not produce plutonium. And since Thorium is in such abundandance, it is an inexaustible supply of energy. A reactor can be designed using molten salt, which is much safer than ones using the solid rods used in many solid fuel reactors. The problems have been worked out and they are much safer. Here is one of many links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor [wikipedia.org]

It seems to me, if we want to get out of "conflict metals", we should try getting them here. Eventually, someone is going to "charge us through the teeth" if we don't

Well, here's another problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917117)

for the Chicken Little "we're running out of resources so let's mine asteroids" paranoid space junkies. They're usually also the same people who say that technology always progresses. So there you go, soon we won't need exotic metals to build single carbon atom transistors.

Commodity Differentiation (1)

Araes (1177047) | about a year ago | (#45917173)

This feels like the result of Moore's Law winding down. Intel used to differentiate based on transistors, computations, energy use, but now the best they seem to do in world where rates aren't skyrocketing is to say they make their chips / boards without using "blood minerals". Could also just be them responding to the pricing pressure that conflict and the dominance of certain countries like China has caused in the rare earth metals market. Don't buy those because they're bad (and they jack our costs)

C08 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917645)

series of debates = 36440 FreeBSD Sadn3ss And it was [tux.org]? Are you

They should also avoid (1)

ai4px (1244212) | about a year ago | (#45917829)

They should also avoid unobtanium. Not even available in China, only available on Pandora.

Re:They should also avoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45919339)

>only available in [example of 2D realm]
The 2D realms abound in unobtaniums:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Unobtainium

Way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45917999)

This is really going to help those poverty stricken nations that are fighting over already limited resources. Make them poorer so they fight harder over less.

BTW, Intel's intentions are pretty evil (1)

Burz (138833) | about a year ago | (#45918149)

They have stated to trade groups that they intend to drive increased consumption even if consumers don't need or want their products. IIRC, in one of their commercials they even accost a disinterested PC user and get her to buy a new laptop based on a bunch of new buzzwords that sound cool. The subtext was: You're in idiot living in a bubble if you're satisfied with the stuff we made for you just a few years ago.

Intel and Apple today represent a nexus of the aggressive consumption mindset. Its not working out for Intel on the Windows side, but Apple's new policy of quickly obsoleting Macs has indeed lead to a big increase in sales.. so you can really see the racket at work where these two companies overlap. Its too bad that as Apple's customers become poorer, they will have to either stop using Macs or curtail their Mac-related purchases. I have stopped recommending them to people.

Can't wait to see this (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#45918421)

New Intel CPU box with "Made from 90% recycled AMD CPUs".

Here we go again (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45918457)

This sounds like the opposite of a good strategy. I'd say that the purchase of conflict minerals is more likely to improve the situation than the ban will. It appears that such bans have decreased the Congo's legal export [businessweek.com] of tantalum for example by 90%.

Given the expected regulatory hassles, companies are looking for mineral supplies in more stable countries. Legal exports (as opposed to black market transactions) of the minerals from the Congo, which supplies 13 percent of the worldâ(TM)s supply of tantalum, dropped more than 90 percent in April from a month earlier, according to the latest data. âoeAlmost everything came to a standstill,â says Paul Yenga Mabolia, head of Promines, a World Bank program assisting the mining industry in Congo.

Note that a huge increase [agmetalminer.com] in the price of tantalum happened after supply was deliberately restricted.

Often, and this is no exception, fads come with a hefty priceâ¦literally. The price per kilogram of tantalum imports to the U.S. increased by 170% in just one year. The rise in price was mostly seen in imports by air, as shown in the graph below. The average import price of tantalum went from $110 in 2011 to nearly $300 in 2012. The craze is continuing into 2013 as well, with January numbers showing the average price at $360.

China also happens to be the primary source of imported tantalum for the US. Given that China is also alleged in my previous link to be the main destination for conflict tantalum, I wonder how much of that import is laundered tantalum from the Congo.

So here's my take on "conflict minerals". I think they don't help the people that they supposedly are intended to help and they reward those who break the law. That's an excellent combination for any policy to achieve.

Walmart (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#45918821)

Just like Walmart is never to blame for abused and / or illegal immigrant crews that clean their stores, I fully expect Intel, et al to hire intermediary contractors to acquire what they need - most especially plausible deniability.

INCOMING!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45919539)

Price increases..

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