Minerals like tantalum, tin, and tungsten are all prevalent in modern electronics, but they're often sourced from war-torn nations with sales frequently benefitting some pretty terrible militant groups. Specifically, an armed group in the Congo known as the March 23 Movement has been using the proceeds from U.S. electronics sales to put guns in the hands of children as young as 15 years of age. Pretty scary stuff.
Federal law requires tech companies to disclose where they're getting their supplies of such questionable "conflict minerals." Both HP and Intel have proved themselves as "industry leaders," with 54% and 60% of their minerals coming from proven, conflict-free sources. Nokia, Motorola, Microsoft, and Apple all get good marks, with all having improved their auditing over the past year. At the bottom of the barrel are Nintendo (0%), smartphone maker HTC (4%), and Nikon (8%) — all companies with low marks and no improvement since 2011. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to set up guidelines as to how to punish or otherwise assist the lagging companies in better sourcing their tech components.
If the issue of whether your next purchase will support war concerns you, then don't worry — the Center for American Progress's "The Enough Project" has compiled a company-by-company ranking. That way, when you're buying your next cellphone, you know that you're not buying the modern day tech equivalent of blood diamonds.
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