The already contentious issue of conflict minerals got uglier this week as a Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) official and four other suspects were arrested February 14 for allegedly stealing tantalite minerals slated for export. The theft prompted AVX Corp, which uses tantalum in its electronics components, to reassure customers its supplies weren’t being disrupted.
“AVX announced [February 15] that it has not been affected by the mineral thefts that have taken place in and around the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salaam, which are reportedly impacting the global supply of tantalite,” the Greensville, SC-based company said in a statement.
According to Tanzania's Daily News , the suspects were holding 44 tons of tantalite minerals due for export to Italy. The estimated value of the shipment could be as high as $9 million, officials said.
Tantalum is one of several substances deemed as “conflict minerals” because of where they are mined. Revenue derived from sales of these minerals is used by rebel organizations that commit genocide and other human atrocities in regions such as The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently passed a measure to discourage consumption of these minerals from conflicted regions that requires public companies in the U.S. to report their use of conflict minerals.
“AVX has a longstanding policy of maintaining considerable stocks of validated conflict-free raw tantalum materials to ensure that occasional disruptions in the tantalum supply chain, like this one, have zero impact on our customers,” said Pete Venuto, vice president of sales at AVX.
AVX is one of the leaders in the electronics industry’s effort to avoid conflict minerals. AVX’s Solutions for Hope project, established in July 2011, works with leading companies, including Motorola Solutions, Intel and HP, to maintain a validated “closed-pipe” process for sourcing conflict-free tantalum material from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in accordance with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) due diligence guidelines, the independently-validated Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS) program.