While you may only care that your phone turns on in the morning and that it works as it should, there are many processes involved in taking your phone from concept to your hands. Part of that process is securing the conductive rare minerals required to make your phone as fast as possible while keeping it as thin as possible. These minerals, like the europium, yttrium, neodymium, and the controversial coltan are seldom found in concentrations high enough to mine commercially and due to their high demand and high payoff are the source of international conflict, trafficking and even modern-day slave labor.
The Enough Project is a non-profit organization vested in ending genocide and crimes against humanity rooted on intensive field research in countries where such genocide and crimes against humanity are prevalent as is the Congo in Africa. They also work to develop practical policies to address these crises, and share sensible tools to help empower citizens and groups working for change.
In a report published recently they list the companies who are making noticeable gains in cleaning up their supply of these "conflict minerals." BlackBerry maker Research In Motion ranked 6th in making the most progress towards sustainable and responsible sourcing of these minerals. Although most consumers may not be privy or care about the source of their phone's internals, it is good to know that RIM is taking a sand against these unfair practices and is proactively seeking to diminish their usage of minerals which may or may not be the cause of civil unrest in foreign countries.
More specifically, the report mentions that the majority of electronics companies surveyed, RIM included, have made progress in three key areas:
- Tracing: Most major electronics companies have traced further along their supply chains to find the sources of their minerals. Starting with Apple, seven firms have now publicly identified the number of smelters involved in their supply chains and nearly all consumer electronics companies are undertaking similar mapping projects.
- Auditing: Many more smelters are now being audited by third-party auditors through the industrywide Confict-Free Smelter, or CFS, program. Twenty smelters have already passed the audits, including the majority of tantalum smelters and two Chinese smelters.
- Certification: A group of companies is starting to help Congo develop a clean minerals trade that helps communities. Seven end-user companies are sourcing from confict-free mines in Congo, and 16 electronics companies have joined the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, or PPA. The PPA is a partnership created by the U.S. government, NGOs, and corporate partners to support the development of a clean-minerals supply chain from Congo and the surrounding region. Motorola Solutions, Intel, and HP also helped get the smelter-audit program to accept confict-free minerals from Congo and the region that are certifed by a regional government body. This means that greater amounts of clean minerals from Congo will go into electronics products next year as mines begin to be certifed.
source: Enough Project Blog