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Gadgets -New U.S. Law Blocks Cell Phone Makers from Subsidizing Congo War

July 27, 2010

New U.S. Law Blocks Cell Phone Makers from Subsidizing Congo War

By Erin Harrison
Senior Editor

A provision in a new United States law aimed at electronics makers – which may have largely gone unnoticed by the public – will force companies to make sure their products do not contain “conflict minerals.”

“…An obscure passage buried deep in the 2,300-page legislation aims to transform a very different place – eastern Congo, labeled the ‘rape capital of the world,’” the Washington Post reported.

The move is aimed at quelling financial gain of the embattled country – the war in Congo killed more than 3 million people between 1998 and 2007, according to International Rescue Committee estimates, Bloomberg (News - Alert) reported.

The new U.S. bill signed into law by President Obama requires companies to certify whether their products contain minerals from rebel-controlled mines in Congo and surrounding countries.

However, according to the Post, the issue of “conflict minerals” was barely mentioned during congressional debate on the Wall Street bill.

At issue, the Associated Press (News - Alert) reported, are three industrial metals: tin, tantalum and tungsten — and gold. “Tin is used in the solder that joins electronic components together. Tantalum’s main use is in capacitors, a vital component in electronics. Tungsten has many uses, including light-bulb filaments and the heavy, compact mass that makes cell phones vibrate,” according to the report.

The law could have far-reaching implications in the U.S. – it applies not only to electronics companies, but also to all publicly traded U.S. firms that use tin and gold.

During her trip to Congo last year, in which she held an emotional meeting with rape victims, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for greater international action to stem the flow of the minerals, the Post said.

Erin Harrison is a senior editor with TMCnet, primarily covering telecom expense management, politics and technology and Web 2.0. She serves as senior editor for TMC's (News - Alert) print publications, including "Internet Telephony", "Customer Interaction Solutions", "Unified Communications" and "NGN" magazines. Erin also oversees production of TMCnet's weekly iPhone (News - Alert) e-Newsletter. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison

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