Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co. are a couple of the big tech companies that are looking for ways to make their products without using a substance called tantalum, which is in lots of smartphones, tablets and other devices. This move comes after Congress passed a law last year that makes companies use minerals that aren't from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo is the world's third-largest producer of tantalum and it's thought the mines there are to blame for much of the violence in that country. The law also covers tin, tungsten and gold.
The law will affect all technology companies publicly traded in the U.S. Oregon-based TriQuint Semiconductor Inc. is working with its suppliers to help them track the four affected minerals they use. Dell Inc. says it, too, is working with suppliers as they adjust purchasing processes. Microsoft Corp. is also among those scrambling to comply with the new legislation.
"The purpose is to cut off funding to people who kill people," says Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), an author of the act. Conflict in eastern Congo is blamed for at least five million deaths since the late 1990s.