Conflict Minerals and the Supply Chain

Pubblicato il 11 agosto 2014

The news media has spent quite a bit of time repeating, dissecting and commenting on Apple’s and other major OEMs promise to use only conflict-free minerals in its products. Consumers are suddenly very aware of Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and more inclined to want their electronics conflict-free.

figura 1

The Kisengo mine site in Katanga Province, DRC

Of course, conflict-free materials often cost more and, given the price-competitive nature of the electronics industry, it is very doubtful that most consumers will pay extra for conflict-free electronics. It is even more doubtful that electronics manufacturers will absorb the cost. This puts the electronics component industry between a rock and a hard place: do we sell more affordable products using morally tainted minerals, or take the moral high ground and lose sales, profit margins, or both?

KEMET is one of the leading manufacturers of tantalum capacitors in the world, and we saw this dilemma coming some years ago. We decided to keep our products affordable and take the moral high ground, by completely controlling our tantalum supply chain, beginning to end.

In 2011, we began executing our vertically-integrated, “closed-pipe” tantalum supply chain strategy. We purchased a tantalum powder manufacturer in Nevada, and changed its name to KEMET Blue Powder Corporation. We also constructed a tantalum ore processing facility in Matamoros, Mexico. Naturally, KEMET needed ore to supply these facilities.

In retrospect, those moves were relatively easy compared to finding a conflict-free source of tantalum ore. A large source of this mineral has long been the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Africa. Sadly, this country has been the scene of constant fighting between rival factions for years. Many of these groups have been stealing and selling the DRC’s natural resources, including tantalite, to fund their operations – while terribly abusing human rights and terrorizing civilians. The tantalum industry was well aware of the situation, and many people suggested we just stop doing business in the DRC altogether.

figura 2

KEMET’s Matamoros, Mexico plant processes tantalum ore from the Kisengo mine into K-Salt, a necessary intermediate product. KEMET Blue Powder in Carson City, Nevada then manufactures the K-Salt into tantalum capacitor powder which is used in the production of tantalum capacitors

At KEMET, however, we saw things differently. Pulling out would just make a bad situation worse for the people of the DRC, so we set out to develop a comprehensive, sustainable solution. After researching mining companies for a potential partner, we approached Mining Mineral Resources (MMR), a company with a successful history of working in the country. MMR had concessions from the DRC government to mine tantalum in the conflict-free Katanga Province. Our goal was to build a sustainable foundation that embraced lasting prosperity and security for all the involved parties, as well as demonstrate that solutions combining social sustainability and economic interests are not mutually exclusive. Our efforts, coupled with traceability schemes such as those developed by the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) and the implementation of other “in-region” sourcing initiatives, substantiate the success of this approach.

We started our Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability initiative, and committed $1.5 million over its first two years for social sustainability projects at the mine and village. With MMR, we also created the Kisengo Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at improving the standard of living in and around the village of Kisengo in Katanga Province. We are happy to say our efforts have been successful there, helping to improve education, healthcare, sanitation, infrastructure and recreational opportunities.

figura 3

A conflict-free tantalum capacitor is the result of an extensive manufacturing process. These capacitors are shipped to customers around the world

As a result of our vertical integration, KEMET has a unique position in the supply chain as both an upstream and downstream supplier. All of the KEMET facilities have been audited and validated compliant with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC)/Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP).

Right now, our vertically integrated supply chain meets the majority of our tantalum needs. The rest is supplied by valued partners who are also EICC/GeSI CFSP compliant. We think the tantalum capacitor has a bright future. Tantalum has inherent dielectric properties that make it unique, and in many cases, a better capacitor versus the available alternatives. The supply chain is relatively simple to control. New powder types are being developed, making it a viable and sustainable solution for current and future applications, one that design engineers can confidently consider as they select their capacitance solution

Even before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a final ruling on Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank bill, KEMET’s tantalum vertical integration efforts were being commended by the U.S. government. In the July 2012 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Conflict Mineral Disclosure Rule: SEC’s Actions and Stakeholder-Developed Initiatives (GAO-12-763), KEMET’s Partnership for Social and Economic Sustainability initiative of establishing a “closed-pipe” supply chain for responsible sourcing of tantalum from Katanga Province was positively cited. We hope it can serve as a roadmap for other manufacturers to follow.

Read the italian version on EONews 577 Jul/Aug

Per Loof, Chief Executive Officer, KEMET Electronics



Contenuti correlati

  • Distrelec amplia l’offerta

    Distrelec ha annunciato una rilevante espansione della sua gamma di prodotti provenienti da tre produttori: C&K, KEMET e TE Connectivity. Questo ampliamento coinvolge oltre 20.000 prodotti in totale e riflette la volontà del distributore di sviluppare continuamente...

  • La ricerca di Ivanti su supply chain e IIoT

    Una recente ricerca di Ivanti Wavelink, la business unit di Ivanti per le soluzioni di supply chain, ha evidenziato i trend verso l’incremento di automazione, connettività e intelligence nei processi della supply chain industriale. Il sondaggio, condotto...

  • La rinascita dei condensatori a film

    I condensatori a film si basano su una delle tecnologie di condensatori più datate e collaudate. Tuttavia, essendo più pesanti e più ingombranti di altri tipi di condensatori, sono stati a lungo considerati inadatti per le applicazioni...

  • Nell’era del COVID-19 la produzione si affida ai robot

    È oramai sotto gli occhi di tutti l’enorme impatto prodotto su scala planetaria da COVID-19, che ha inciso sulla salute di milioni di persone e provocato uno sconvolgimento senza precedenti sulle economie di tutto il mondo. Sono...

  • SMKL: l’approccio Kaizen allo Smart Manufacturing

    Il nuovo approccio alla digitalizzazione di Mitsubishi Electric prende il nome di SMKL, “Smart Manufacturing Kaizen Level” e si basa sulla filosofia giapponese del miglioramento continuo. Questa filosofia, chiamata Kaizen, mira a conseguire obiettivi ambiziosi ma con...

  • Secondo Axitea proteggere la supply chain diventa fondamentale in un mondo sempre più connesso

    Andrea Lambiase, Head of Management Consulting di Axitea, riflette sulla criticità della catena di approvvigionamento quale crescente vettore d’attacco e sull’importanza di un approccio circolare alla sicurezza. Partner e fornitori tendono ad essere l’anello più debole della...

  • KEMET presenta i condensatori a film EMI X2 per ambienti difficili

    KEMET ha annunciato la sua nuova serie R53 di condensatori X2 per la soppressione EMI. Questa serie , costituita da compoenenti miniaturizzati in film di polipropilene, soddisfa le esigenze di applicazioni automobilistiche, industriali, di consumo ed energetiche...

  • Uno studio di SAP e Oxford Economics sulle supply chain sostenibili

    SAP e Oxford Economics hanno intervistato 1.000 Supply Chain Manager di tutto il mondo e tutti i settori per identificare le aree principali dove è possibile coniugare gli obiettivi apparentemente divergenti di sostenibilità, innovazione e resilienza con...

  • Gestire le supply chain in un mercato in rapida evoluzione

    Si può dire che gli ultimi 12 mesi sono stati diversi da tutti gli altri per così tanti settori, ma il mercato dei componenti elettronici, in particolare, ha lottato con una serie di sconvolgimenti che non potevano...

  • La “tempesta perfetta” crea carenze nella supply chain dei componenti elettronici

    Siamo nel mezzo di quella che potrebbe essere definita una “tempesta perfetta” che sta creando enormi carenze nella supply chain dei componenti elettronici. Anche prima della pandemia da COVID-19, le supply chain stavano dando mostra dei primi...

Scopri le novità scelte per te x