Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

H.P. to Push for End to 'Conflict Minerals' ; Company Will Publish List of Smelters Linked to Materials in Its Products

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

H.P. to Push for End to 'Conflict Minerals' ; Company Will Publish List of Smelters Linked to Materials in Its Products

Article excerpt

Hewlett-Packard announced Monday that it was listing all 195 ore smelters that were identified with the minerals inside the company's products.

Hewlett-Packard has said that it will publish a list of ore smelters worldwide whose materials go into the company's products, in a push for transparency that it hopes will help stop the spread of "conflict minerals" that finance wars.

An essential component of most cellphones is the mineral tantalite, which is frequently obtained from the Democratic Republic of Congo under murky circumstances. Tin, tungsten and gold also finance armed groups in Congo as the minerals make their way to laptops and tablets.

Hewlett-Packard announced Monday that it was listing all 195 ore smelters that were identified with the minerals inside the company's products. Within about two years, the company says, it wants its parts suppliers, which buy from the smelters, to make sure the minerals were not obtained from conflict zones.

"We believe the upshot of this is, over time, to lower violence and repression," said Tony Prophet, who runs the global supply chain for H.P.'s personal systems group. "The smelters are the chokepoint. Once you locate them, you can start to pressure them to set a standard."

While H.P. may be as many as four steps away from the smelters in the supply chain, Mr. Prophet said, as a major purchaser it can still compel good behavior.

In August, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also adopted a rule requiring all publicly traded companies to disclose their use of certain conflict minerals beginning next year, although that rule is facing a court challenge.

The issue illuminates a chaotic underside to the clean orderliness of high-technology products.

Over the past 15 years, the armies of nine countries and perhaps 15 or more armed groups have fought in Congo, resulting in more than five million deaths.

This coincides with the rise in popularity of mobile devices, which has increased demand for the minerals found in Congo. That, in turn, attracts warlords.

Despite all the killing, supplies have remained stable. The minerals are aggregated through a series of middlemen, similar to the way illicit drugs are often gathered from small-scale growers. …

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