Intel has pledged to remove conflict minerals, mined using slave labour, from its entire product line by 2016 following the launch of its first conflict-free chip in January this year.

Modern electronic components require a range of rare minerals, without which they cannot be manufactured. A common source of said minerals - in particular columbite-tantalite from which tantalum is extracted, cobalt, wolframite and cassiterite - is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunate, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claims that armed groups including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and splinters from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) frequently make use of subsistence miners as slave labour, illegally exporting the minerals to fund arms purchases.

In May 2012, Intel announced that it would work towards a conflict mineral free processor for launch the following year. Although it missed its original deadline, the first such chip was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year - and now the company has pledged to go still further and eliminate all conflict minerals from its products by 2016.

'Since January, we have not slowed down – nor have many of our industry partners. We continue our global travels to smelters in our supply chain and our Intel team has visited 88 smelters in 21 countries,' claimed Intel's Carolyn Duran in a progress report. 'We continue to support smelters who choose to source responsibly from the DRC by utilising programmes which document the mineral “chain-of-custody.” A total of 97 smelters in our supply chain have now been validated as conflict-free. We also encourage efforts to help legitimate miners within the DRC or surrounding region.

'At Intel, we are nothing if not a company filled with engineers and scientists,' concluded Duran. 'And we like measurement – and goals. So we have a new goal – directed by our CEO Brian Krzanich – to be conflict-free for all of our products starting in 2016. Am I confidant in the team we have working toward this goal? Absolutely. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. Will this be enough to solve the issues of conflict in the DRC? Definitely not.'

Those wanting more information on Intel's efforts to become conflict-free are advised to visit the company's dedicated microsite.

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