Conflicts over Conflict Metals

A top Avnet sales executive is advocating a market-driven solution to the Conflict Metals problem; that is, that industry should go along with US legislation charging companies with oversight of their supply chains back to the mines.

Gerry Fay, senior vice president, supply chain solutions, Avnet, argues that the death of millions should be enough impetus for industry to comply with the Dodd-Frank bill that requires companies to trace the source of minerals used in their products. The law essentially bans the import of gold, columbite-tantalite, cassiterite and wolframite, and their derivatives, from the DRC by US-based publicly held companies, enacts strict reporting standards, and implements a new labeling procedure. Under the new law, any publicly traded company that makes products that use conflict minerals and buys those minerals either in the DRC or an adjoining country must exercise due diligence on the source and supply chain.

That prompted a reply from an IPC executive who rejects the notion that the electronics industry can resolve a “long-standing social [sic] conflict.”

Then there’s Cookson Electronics president Steve Corbett, who asserted last year that the US government should stay out of the matter because it simply has no hope of resolving a civil war in Africa.

I won’t begin to pretend I have the answer, but it’s interesting that three people so entrenched in the matter could have such differing opinions on how to (or how not to) address it.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow