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Firms Seek Supply Route Around Conflict in Congo

Published on April 27, 2011
by Devon Maylie

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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