Firms Seek Supply Route Around Conflict in Congo

While the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake is causing many companies to worry about the electronics supply chain, a different pall is hovering over a rare, blue-gray metal that is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The substance is tantalum, an ingredient in components that are a mainstay of devices like smartphones, digital tablets and personal computers. And recently big technology companies like Intel Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., which either use tantalum directly or buy semiconductors made with it, have started a push to find sources without links to war-torn regions of Africa.

A new U.S. law requires publicly traded companies to ensure key minerals in their products aren’t coming from the Congo’s rebel-controlled mines. A civil war in the Congo, the world’s third-largest producer of tantalum, ended in 2003, but violence in the eastern part of the country continues.

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