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How Conflict-Free Minerals Are Advancing Human Rights

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Today is Human Rights Day, an international celebration of the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights Day recognizes that everyone is entitled to the full range of human rights, and that human rights bind us together as a global community.

On this special day, I’d like to highlight a human rights issue that has been gaining momentum this year: conflict minerals. These minerals – which include tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold – are mined through the exploitation of low-paid workers and used to fund violence, genocide and other crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They’re found in a wide range of electronic devices, from phones to tablets to PCs, as well as many others products used in our daily lives.

For the past six years, Intel has been working to remove minerals that fund violence from its supply chain. At first, our mission seemed like a near-impossible challenge – but instead of avoiding the issue by sourcing minerals from other countries, Intel committed to continue sourcing from the DRC. Our team spent years tracking down and auditing the smelters that supply the minerals used in Intel products, ultimately visiting 88 smelters in 21 countries. As a result, 97 smelters in Intel’s supply chain are now validated as conflict-free.

Photo Credit_ Vince Thomas, Intel Photo Credit: Vince Thomas, Intel

At the beginning of this year, our CEO, Brian Krzanich, announced that Intel had begun manufacturing and shipping the world’s first commercially available conflict-free microprocessors. One of Intel’s latest recognitions in the conflict mineral space was receiving Jewish World Watch’s 2014 I Witness award, which was notable because Intel is the first corporation ever to receive the honor.

We have worked hard on this issue and we are learning that our collective efforts are having a positive impact.  According to NGOs on the ground in the DRC, miners’ wages are incrementally increasing and electronics companies are expanding minerals sourcing from the DRC, which is improving conditions for miners and communities near the mines. The price of tin, tungsten and tantalum that isn’t validated as conflict-free has decreased by 30 to 60 percent, reducing profits for armed groups trying to sell them. As a result, armed groups are no longer present at two-thirds of tin, tantalum and tungsten mines, and hospitals and schools are starting to be built in those areas. This is encouraging news, but the journey is not over – and more work remains for us and others. The conflict minerals issues can only be resolved with the collective action of private enterprises, NGOs and governments.

Intel will continue to lead on this issue and while we reached an important milestone in 2014 by producing the world’s first conflict-free microprocessors, we are not resting; we are pursuing our next goal, which is to make all Intel products conflict-free in  2016. As we move forward, Intel continues to conduct audits and work with industry peers, governments and NGOs to make progress toward conflict-free products worldwide. For more information, visit intel.com/conflictfree.