Rare earth elements will likely play a larger role. Lithium will be the mineral of choice...
Lithium isn't a Rare Earth element, it's an Alkali Metal. I get that you just mean it's hard to find (i.e rare) but the pedantic scientist in me just thought I'd clear that up.
Apart from that this was an excellent article that rivals (and even surpasses) articles found on 'proper' news websites.
Thanks for the correction. I didn't mean to claim Lithium is a Rare Earth element (as you correctly pointed out, it's an alkali metal), but I definitely constructed the paragraph in a way that gave that impression. Thanks, good writing lesson!
As I mentioned in my reply to the previous article this is already pretty much a non-issue. Electronics companies and smelters are already taking care of this in an surprisingly successful case of self-regulation (one of few). Very little dodgy Congolese ColTan enters the supply chain now.
This legislation can do nothing about non-compliant smelters or electronics companies based outside the USA, as it only affects primary users, the smelters and manufacturers of the capacitors. A company that doesn't actually take Cobalt or Tantalum and manufacture something from that is not obliged to report to the SEC. That is the majority of electronics companies in the US and Worldwide. The present self regulation applies to the WHOLE supply chain. You don't get a get out of jail free card just because you buy your capacitors (or whatever) from a 3rd party. You are expected to ensure that the 3rd party isn't using conflict minerals.
EDIT: The successes that the author of this article claim for the legislation were as a result of self-regulation, not legislation. I am normally not one for promoting self-regulation but in this case it has worked.
EDIT 2: the industry group overseeing this is the EICC
Thanks for your comments. I disagree that this is a non-issue for a number of reasons--but I would, wouldn't I? I mean, I wouldn't have written the article otherwise. It's definitely true that industry associations have, and will continue to play, a large role in cracking down on conflict minerals, but I want to clear up a few things you said that contradicted my research.
The idea that the legislation doesn't apply to "generic" components like capacitors is actually a fairly common misreading of the statute. The exemption for "generic" products applies to companies like WalMart, Target, and Walgreens that buy products that have already been fully manufactured and are then sold under the store brand. (i.e. if you go to Walgreens you can buy "Walgreens" products, but Walgreens didn't make those products, it just bought generic products cheap and put them in Walgreens-branded packaging.) The idea that companies could claim the exemption by saying they're buying "generic" capacitors and solder has been knocking around since the SEC wrote the regs, but that's not how they were intended or have been interpreted by electronics companies (most of whom don't manufacture products for generic sale anyway). Is there wiggle room? Oh yeah. But until that assertion is tested in court it's only a theory, and I don't see any company wanting to be the test case for it.
In addition, I respectfully disagree with your assertion that the legislation does not affect non-US manufacturers. The SEC regulations are not limited to US-based companies, since they very clearly cover any company listed on Wall Street--which covers a wide number of foreign manufacturers that are on the NYSE. I will, however, say that you're right that this doesn't cover a lot of smelters. Essentially, with these regs the SEC hopes companies will put pressure on smelters so that the manufacturers can claim compliance.
It's true that several industry associations were beginning to address Coltan (several, including the EICC, were mentioned in the column) but many manufacturers were dragging their feet about joining these associations, particularly those outside the United States. Dodd-Frank has done a lot to accelerate voluntary, and involuntary, supply chain tracking and auditing that was previously sporadic at best--basically lighting a fire under companies that weren't putting their shoulder behind the effort, which was most of them. Sure there were private measures looking into the problem, but they hadn't solved anything and a lot of companies weren't members at all. Sony, for example, had not joined any industry initiatives as of 2010.
Even so, there was little to no interest in tracking things like tin and gold, which are much more difficult to trace than Coltan--a fact that has meant that gold is now the largest DRC conflict mineral. Chemical testing is great, but there need to be different processes for different minerals and, as I mentioned, some like tin are extremely difficult to track.
And that's assuming any of these measures even work in the long term--and the jury's out on that.
Another great article. But it does strike me as a little odd that only console manufacturers were mentioned. Games are also played on general-purpose computers made by many manufacturers, so why weren't they included?
Mostly, as mentioned, because the article would just be too long and the "big three" console manufacturers were a good microcosm. This series was almost 6k words already!
If you want to look at how other major manufacturers did, I linked Enough Project's report in the column. I will tell you that Intel is the leader with a score of 60 and they hope to produce a conflict mineral-free microchip in a few years.
Conflict Minerals and the Game Industry: Progress and Setbacks
How Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are responding (or not) to the conflict minerals issue.
Read Full Article
So what is your response to the people who claim that these new regulations have succeeded all too well, and that by cutting mineral exports by 90% are directly responsible for the destabilization of the current Congolese government and the current success that is being enjoyed by the M23 movement?
I don't want to be Monday's expert, but surely something like this was always on the cards, right?
God I love it when people cite sources from reputable publications. You're my new favorite commenter.
That's a great article, but it's a little biased to the industry position--as is understandable for a publication like BusinessWeek. It doesn't mention, for example, that a major part of the drop in mine production was from a DRC government ban on mining aimed at not only combating conflict minerals but also pushing out the rebel groups controlling mines in the Eastern DRC. (And as mentioned in the column, the flaw in this plan was that unpaid DRC troops are basically rebels-in-the-making once they're far from the government's reach and in control of mineral resources.)
I think that Dodd-Frank has absolutely had an effect on the DRC minerals market and--at least in the short term--created a rise in poverty and joblessness among miners while simultaneously cutting funding for armed groups. Is that dangerous? Hell yes it's dangerous. Is it directly responsible for the current M23 resurgence and threat to Kabila? I'm not willing to go that far yet.
The fact is that the situation is still developing very rapidly, and I don't want to call the game based on a kickoff play. At this point, I WILL say that the DRC's government, and its predecessors, have been facing continuous rebel movements and in the Kivus since the 1960s and the area has never been fully under government control. This isn't due to the present situation, but more a long-term consequence of having a weak central government attempting to administer a large and volatile region with a lot of social/ethnic/economic strife plus widespread access to weapons. The Kabilas themselves were part of a similar rebel movement that gained speed without the current problems with mineral production, and Joseph Kabila isn't anything like a popular leader, especially in the east.
So essentially what I'm saying is this: Is the de facto embargo contributing to the problem? I would say it's playing a role, but I'm not prepared to say how big a role. Is it "responsible" for the M23 movement's momentum? No, I wouldn't use the word "responsible," but again, I think you could say it's "contributing" to their success.
It also goes without saying that we're in the very early stages of M23's offensive and we don't know how successful it will ultimately prove, but it's definitely alarming. However, cause and effect can be elusive things in Congolese politics, and it might be years before we really know how much of a role the SEC regs had.