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Three Ts and Gold
September 27, 2012 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission changed their rules to require companies to disclose if they use 'tantalum, tin, gold, or tungsten if those minerals are “necessary to the functionality or production of a product”' These are also known as 'conflict minerals.' The Deadly Tin Inside Your Smartphone, Businessweek

Big retailers have an exemption from disclosure.

Raise Hope For Congo has a list of companies ranked by their efforts to use conflict-free minerals. Intel, HP, Phillips and SanDisk are at the top. FastCompany has another ranking.

Why Junk Electronics Should Be Big Business
posted by the man of twists and turns (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not all tantalum, tin, gold, or tungsten are conflict minerals, it must be made clear (which it;s not from the post, probably is in the links).
Too much if it is, sadly.

So, I applaud this SEC rule change.

It's a pity it's not binding on, say, Chinese companies. Or others. There is a hell of a lot of Australian investment in and around the DRC these days.
posted by Mezentian at 1:00 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why Junk Electronics Should Be Big Business

I am waiting for someone to create a machine the size of a city that eats unsorted trash by the freighter-load and spits out raw materials. There's gold in them thar hills of rubbish.
posted by pracowity at 2:54 AM on September 27, 2012


There's gold in them thar hills of rubbish.

Gold is the least of the things in there.
Biomass, mercury, heavy metals.... hydrocarbons....

As a species we're pretty much the worst thing ever.
posted by Mezentian at 3:01 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


And the best.
posted by pracowity at 3:08 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the best.

My cat is totally frowning at you now.

(We have moments of brilliance, to be sure).
posted by Mezentian at 3:34 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tin? Tin is now controversial?

So anything I own with solder in it, now I have to feel guilty?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:51 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


My cat is totally frowning at you now.

My cats know who opens the cans. Tin cans, though I guess they're actually mostly steel.
posted by pracowity at 4:04 AM on September 27, 2012


"Tin is often associated with soup and questionable meats, ..."

I think the Tin Man may find some quarrel with this statement.
posted by whorl at 4:40 AM on September 27, 2012


So anything I own with solder in it, now I have to feel guilty?

Short answer, no.
Longer answer: possibly.
Tin is not uncommon. It's just the cheaper the labor, the cheaper the extraction.
posted by Mezentian at 5:37 AM on September 27, 2012


Tin is not uncommon. It's just the cheaper the labor, the cheaper the extraction.


THIS.

If we all agreed to only buy tin that's mined with proper environmental safeguards and labor protections, we'd be getting it from Cornwall again.
posted by ocschwar at 6:01 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am waiting for someone to create a machine the size of a city that eats unsorted trash by the freighter-load and spits out raw materials. There's gold in them thar hills of rubbish.

Supertrain will solve all of our problems.
posted by helicomatic at 6:22 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am waiting for someone to create a machine the size of a city that eats unsorted trash by the freighter-load and spits out raw materials. There's gold in them thar hills of rubbish.


Landfill mining is happening in various places around the world. And it will get more and more attractive, primarily for the copper.
posted by ocschwar at 6:31 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Raise Hope For Congo has a list of companies ranked by their efforts to use conflict-free minerals. Intel, HP, Phillips and SanDisk are at the top. FastCompany has another ranking.

They appear to be the same list, actually.

Way to suck, Nintendo.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:53 AM on September 27, 2012


Probably a good idea to actually read the article this time:

OK, excellent. Those actually in the metals business did say many a time that the proposed rules were going about it the wrong way. But Dodd Frank was passed with the necessity for such auditing included and the SEC has now released the detailed rules about what must be done. Rules which, if I am reading them correctly, contain such an enormous loophole that I cannot see how the electronics industry is affected at all. Despite much of the propaganda in favour of the rule being all about how these slave derived metals end up in our phones and other electronics.

posted by b1tr0t at 8:42 AM on September 27, 2012


The third link in the FPP offers a pretty compelling argument that the rules would have almost no impact.

The rule says a "company is not be deemed to have influence over the manufacturing if it merely: Affixes its brand, marks, logo, or label to a generic product manufactured by a third party."

But Apple's circuit boards (for example) incorporate generic capacitors, not special Apple capacitors. Quoting from the link: "companies buy in a generic product, tantalum powder, to make those capacitors. They do not 'cause it to be manufactured'. "

And mining companies are apparently expressly exempt, so apparently only a very small number of raw materials processors would be affected.
posted by exogenous at 8:50 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, basically, the consumer will know if a product likely supports a conflict area with blood money, unless that product is made by a large corporation, or parts of it are, or it's Tuesday.

Sounds great!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:57 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


A miner's union would go a long way toward improving working conditions there. It requires that local law enforcement is not so corrupt as to indefinitely turn a blind eye when the ore buyers or pit owners or pit bosses start killing miners. People will definitely die during the unionization. But people are dying now, in unsafe mining conditions.

The price of the products that are made with tin would rise, slightly. From a recent spot price on tin, at 24,290 dollars/metric ton, if you were to triple the price of the 3 grams of tin in an IOS or Android device, you'd add no less than twenty-five cents to the price of that toy.

Other solutions have less certain outcomes or higher costs.
  • If one or more large consumers of tin were to vertically integrate their supply chain, then they could control it all the down to the pit, and improve workers conditions at the pits.
  • If a company thought they could make money selling ethically mined tin to companies in countries with customers wracked with guilt, it would probably fail unless a corporation were required, either by fiat or consumer demand, to use ethically mined tin in products sold there.
  • A boycott of China or Indonesia to protest working conditions would be worse than useless.
  • A set-aside by the last seller of the tin, say Apple, to "improve the conditions of miners" is very likely to be entirely consumed by a chain of increasingly corrupt officials before it actually benefits a miner.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


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