The EICC sees mineral extraction as a key area of focus. The minerals and metals used in electronic products usually come from numerous sources, and are processed in ways and via extensive supply chains that make them difficult to trace. In recent years, the source of minerals has increasingly come under public scrutiny. In collaboration with GeSI, we have invested substantial efforts to better understand issues surrounding metals extraction and to develop a program to help ensure that smelters and refiners can identify the origin of minerals which go into electronics products.
Since we started to focus in this area in 2008, the EICC and GeSI have invested in the development of two reports to further understand issues around metals extraction.
Social and Environmental Responsibility in Metals Supply Chain
We commissioned an industry research project to understand:
- How six key metals (aluminum, cobalt, copper, gold, palladium, and tin) are mined, recycled, purchased, and used within the electronic industry
- How the EICC and GeSI can effectively influence social and environmental issues associated with the mining of metals used in electronic products
Independent Canadian researchers GHGm conducted the research; the final report entitled Social and Environmental Responsibility in Metals Supply to the Electronic industry was published in June 2008. The report helped increase knowledge of impacts at the initial stages of the supply chain. It also has provided a clearer picture of the challenges involved in tracing the sources of metals used in electronics products, the social and environmental issues related to the mining of particular metals, and how EICC and GeSI members might have the greatest responsibility for and influence over the conditions for their production.
Metals Supply Chain Tracing
As a follow-up to GHGm’s report, the EICC and GeSI decided to look specifically at tantalum, tin, and cobalt—three metals used in relatively large quantities by the electronic industry. We contracted with RESOLVE to lead an initiative to attempt to trace these metals upstream to the smelters and, where possible, the mineral extraction point.
The purpose of this project was to:
- Create a picture of the electronics supply chain for these metals;
- Assess suppliers’ use of codes of conduct addressing social, environmental, health, and labor issues; and
- Identify the challenges companies might face when attempting to map their own supply chain and ways to enhance and maintain transparency.
The resulting report, Tracing a Path Forward: A Study of the Challenges of the Supply Chain for Target Metals Used in Electronics, was published in 2010.
In addition to research, we foster ongoing dialogue and relationships with external stakeholders, including companies not in the electronics sector, other industry associations, and the NGO community. To that end, we engage in activities such as:
- Creating sub-teams focused on the metal supply chains. They consist of companies from all tiers of the supply chain (e.g., traders, miners, smelters, etc.) who are working collaboratively to improve the mineral tracking and tracing processes.
- Working with the supply chain participants in developing a program that aims to enable responsible sourcing. See Conflict-Free Smelter program for more information.
- Working with trade associations to better understand how other industries approached similar challenges of traceability. We are evaluating the criteria associated with certification processes, such as the Kimberly Process (diamonds) and the Forest Stewardship Council (wood) to identify their most effective methods.
- Click here for more information on joining a Work Group as a Non-Member Company or as a Trade Association (scroll to the bottom of the page).
- Providing support to on-the-ground traceability mechanisms such as the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (iTSCI). This project intends to track minerals and provide origination information from mine sites in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. We believe that this model may be useful for other minerals used in electronics products.
- Supporting members as they conduct their own stakeholder engagement, including with government entities, through providing information on organizational activities and programs.
Click here for more information on the Conflict-Free Smelter program. Click here to access additional conflict minerals and extractives resources.
(Last updated July 7, 2011)
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