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Human rights in minerals mining in Central Africa

Human rights violations associated with the mining of certain metals used in our products are one focus of our supply chain social and environmental responsibility (SER) program. In particular, reports of human rights violations related to the trade in minerals from the conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continued to cause concern in 2009.

The specific metals under discussion are gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten. To varying degrees, these metals are used in components commonly found in electronic products. Tantalum is arguably the most significant metal on the list for the electronics sector because a high proportion of the metal’s consumption occurs in the production of capacitors for electronic equipment. Tin, while used pervasively in electronic products in the form of solder, has other significant industrial uses. All four metals are used by other industries, such as automotive, aerospace and jewelry. In the case of gold, products from other industries represent the majority of its use. In addition to being used broadly, none of the metals is exclusively mined in the eastern DRC or even in Africa.

Although companies who source these minerals are generally far removed from HP, typically multiple tiers from our direct suppliers, through our Supply Chain Social and Environmental Responsibility Policy, link to PDF
we have a shared responsibility regarding conflict-free mineral sourcing. The electronics industry can't solve this issue alone, but we believe that our existing supply chain SER program provides the platform for tackling this issue. We expect suppliers to conduct their worldwide operations in a manner that does not result in labor or human rights violations, including operations that contribute to the direct financing of armed conflict.

Since 2001, we have sought assurances from capacitor suppliers that they are not using tantalum sourced from the DRC. Our suppliers have repeatedly confirmed that they were not. In 2010, we will work with our suppliers to further investigate and attempt to trace the origin of the tantalum used.

In 2007, we surveyed our notebook suppliers about the origins of a number of metals, including gold and tin. Suppliers of hard disk drives, optical disk drives, batteries, printed circuit boards and assembled notebooks indicated that gold was present in their products. They reported the sources of gold to be Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, North America, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan. Of these, Australia, China, Russia, South Africa and the United States are recognized as major gold producers.

These suppliers, as well as those producing LCDs, indicated that tin was present in their products. They reported the sources of tin to be China, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. Of these, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia are all included on the lists of nations with the top tin reserves.

We are pleased that our suppliers have cooperated with us to provide what information they could. Despite this feedback, there is no certification mechanism currently available that can assure us that the metals used in our products are not sourced from mineral trade associated with the conflict in the DRC. HP is working alongside other industries to drive the creation of such a mechanism, and in 2010 we will work with our suppliers to further investigate and attempt to trace the origin of the tantalum used. We believe that it is our responsibility to create awareness and encourage accountability in our supply chain, and we will continue to do so until a credible certification process is established.

HP is also engaged actively in the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) working groups on extractives issues and is participating in projects aimed at better understanding and developing systems of assurance for metals supply chains in the electronics sector (especially tantalum). Other efforts exist within specific metals industries such as tin, as well as the jewelry sector and the mining industry. The electronics industry is following developments in those initiatives to ensure that there is an effective cross-industry solution for sourcing minerals responsibly. HP and our suppliers contributed to an EICC/GeSI metals supply chain mapping exercise in 2009. The lessons from that exercise will be published in early 2010, and HP will combine these with our own research to expand our understanding of the sources of metals in our products.

In October 2009, HP, Dell, Intel, Motorola and Philips co-hosted a multi-industry forum on metals extraction issues. More than 40 attendees discussed potential industry actions to address the reported role of the mineral trade in financing armed conflict in the eastern DRC. Follow-up meetings between different industries and stakeholders are already taking place as a result.

Position on Legislation

We believe that legislation, in the United States or in other countries, can play a role in stimulating demand for supply chains free of conflict minerals. As such, HP supports the objective of legislative or market instruments that encourage the development of an internationally recognized, independently monitored, cross-industry approach to ensuring that metals are not sourced from mineral trade associated with the conflict in the DRC.

HP is working with companies across many industries, including electronics sector, to drive the creation of such a solution. To support these existing efforts and maximize the impact such a solution will have on solving the problem of DRC “conflict minerals”, HP would like to see legal requirements for producers potentially using metals that could be derived from DRC “conflict minerals” to:

  • Exercise verifiable due diligence in their supply chains, and
  • Periodically and publicly disclose their due diligence findings to a competent authority

In particular HP supports the provision to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act, which directs companies that use these metals (which may be associated with DRC conflict minerals) to file an annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) detailing their supply chain efforts in to ensure the metals they use are derived from conflict-free minerals. HP also supports the primary goal ofthe Conflict Minerals Trade Act (HR 4128).

However, we have not waited for legislation to drive awareness and improvements in our supply chain and will continue to work with other industries and government representatives to align our efforts. We will continue to extend our existing due diligence efforts beyond the supplier assurances we have already received until we have definitively assured ourselves that metals used in HP products are not sourced from mineral trading associated with the conflict in the DRC.