back to article European Parliament mulls law on use of blood metal in tech

MEPs will vote whether or not to make electronics manufacturers find out where the minerals in their products come from. The proposed law is part of an effort to clamp down on so-called conflict minerals. Militant groups in areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo often use the sale of tin, tungsten, tantalum and …

  1. horsham_sparky
    FAIL

    Please don't do another REACH to us

    I've been working in the Electronics industry designing circuits and systems since 2000.. so I've seen the introduction of RoHS, WEEE and worst of all REACH legislation.

    I can see the point of the WEEE directive (recycling waste electronics), which negates the need for the some parts of RoHS, namely leaded solders, as its easy to recycle and therefore doesn't contaminate the environment.. and incidentally makes electronics easier (there simply isn't a non-leaded solder anywhere near as good as the traditional tin-lead mix)

    However Reach is an utter nightmare for us, as its a vastly larger list of substances, which changes at short notice.. for the average engineer, its simply not practical to check every single component in every design.

    But at least with RoHS and to a lesser degree REACH, there are tests you can perform to determine the content of PCBs. However a conflict mineral is identical to a non-conflict mineral.. so this becomes even harder, as even fairphone have found, there's simply no way to be 100% sure.

    So then the question is what is the point of a new law that cannot be enforced? how do you prove a company is using conflict minerals in their supply chain for a prosecution? and if you can, how can you prove they did so willingly?

    For heavens sake EU.. we don't need any more hurdles to getting products out the door! The problem needs tackling at source, not at the end of a supply chain

  2. x 7

    Considering the way metals and chemicals are traded, then not a hope. The worlds legal authorities can't stop chemicals for military or drug use going to the wrong places. Stuff like this will be even harder to control

  3. Michael Hawkes
    WTF?

    The real challenge...

    "The real challenge is that of elaborating an efficient, workable regulation."

    I'd think the real challenge would be stopping the conflicts in the DRC. The proposed solution seems to be similar to the manner in which the People's Front of Judea operated ("This calls for immediate discussion.").

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blood metal doesn't cause me a problem but thieves stealing power cables, signal cables, memorial plaques, grids and manhole covers do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blood metal doesn't cause me a problem

      Well, thank goodness you at least aren't stuck at the wrong end of a gun in the DRC. We can all relax now, because there's nothing to worry about, except maybe some more vandalism, Euro paperwork, and extra supply chain auditting.

      Perhaps rather more pertinently, didn't Worstall burble on about this sort of thing a while back? Must go look it up ...ah ...

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/11/09/if_only_0006_of_us_are_interested_then_why_the_hell_are_we_spending_all_this_money/

      I think generally it might be useful to distinguish between "I don't care about the war crimes/ human rights violations in the DRC" and "this is the wrong type of solution". But maybe that's just me.

  5. Piloti

    I saw "blood metal" and thought.....

    .... wow ! A new blood based liquid metal for /stuff/ that would have a never ending supply !

    Then it turned out to be another DRC story with aimless bureaucrats trying to justify their existence by driving up the end consumer price while allowing the Chinese to carry on buying all the minerals they want, further undermining Euro' based production.

    Agree 100% with @MichaelHawkes.....

  6. Falanx

    Well, other than it being entirely impossible...

    Given that all four metals are heavily recycled and reclaimed, and that under section 1502 of the Ken Dodd, er, Frank-Dodd Act essentially every piece of steel in the world is irredeemably contaminated....

    Oh well. When did reality ever get in the way of good legislation?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When will people stop making

    laws who's only effect is to make them "feel good" about themselves?

    Are lawmakers so hollow that they think that only some kind of impossible legislation can make them worthwhile again?

    As said before, the real task is to solve the unrest problems in Africa.

    There is no good reason why these militants are even still alive. They certainly don't deserve to be, the poaching, kidnappings and murders they are guilty of are heinous crimes that deserve no mercy from anyone. The world would be a better place if groups like the Congolese rebels and Boko Haram were wiped from the earth.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Facepalm

      Re: When will people stop making

      > the real task is to solve the unrest problems in Africa [...] The world would be a better place if groups like the Congolese rebels and Boko Haram were wiped from the earth.

      What a *BRILLIANT* solution! Why on earth did nobody think of trying that sort of thing before in Iran or Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan or...

      1. Dan Paul

        Re: When will people stop making @Graham Marsden

        Al Quaida, ISIL, various African rebels and Boko Haram do not recognise or respect anything except force. There can be no negotiation with them.

        Their rule is simple; "Kill All the Infidels". There is only one successful way to deal with that mindset which is to kill all the terrorists, now, before they can contaminate any more humans with their "ideals". Imprisoning them does not work as they will get out and kill more "Infidels" or chop off a limb or two. Ever see anyone with all their limbs cut off? It's a horrific sight and somewhat common in some parts of Africa because of rebels with machetes. This act is being taught to kidnapped gradeschoolers by these murderers.

        I dare you to show specific situations in the Iraq war where we (US and British troops) were even close to the kind of brutality that Al Quaida, various Congolese and Somali rebels and Boko Haram have committed. Your countrymen are no better than ours, don't pull this sanctimoneous BS.

        There are tens of thousands of endangered animals that have been killed by poachers and most of those are Congolese and Somalian rebels, how about them?

        How about the beheadings and rapes of hundreds of Yazidi's by ISIL? The beheadings of everyday Christians in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, or elsewhere by similar groups? The kidnapping and rape of 200+ girls by BokoHaram? The outright murder of hundreds more because they dared to oppose them?

        Funny how you don't care that ISIL or Boko Haram kills Christians, just that we shouldn't kill terrorists.

        Our soldiers (Both US and British) have been constrained by ignorant, namby pamby "rules of engagement" to the point of of failure in Iraq. Same thing in Viet Nam and we lost there too.

        Stop the rules, let the soldiers finish the job. If the terrorists want war, then lets give them war that has no mercy for they have never shown any and don't deserve any in return.

        1. Graham Marsden
          Boffin

          @Dan Paul - Re: When will people stop making @Graham Marsden

          What a wonderful rant! Pity you miss the point entirely.

          Consider this: If someone invaded your country (even, or especially, under the guise of "helping" you), tried to tell your countryfolk how to live their lives, elect their leaders (prefereably from their chosen shills candidates) and generally pissed all over your lifestyles and traditions, what would you do? Would you capitulate or fight back?

          The answer to that is pretty obvious, of course, so now consider what would happen if the invaders started trying to kill off anyone who opposed them (with, of course, attendant "collateral damage") using drones to wipe out a whole area of housing just in case there was a terrorist there and having helicopter gunships shoot up people by mistake.

          I think that, if that happened, even those who might have had more moderate, even (who knows) those bleeding heart liberals might consider taking up arms to fight off these interlopers etc.

          Would you say that that would be a reasonable assessment of what would happen, yes?

          SO WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S ANY FUCKING DIFFERENT FOR PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN OR THE MIDDLE EAST OR AFRICA OR ANY FUCKING OTHER PLACE IN THE FUCKING WORLD???

          Shooting the shit out of anyone you don't like is NOT going to make the problem any better, it just drives more people into the arms of the militants and terrorists because the people see that as a better option than just capitulating. "They may be bastards, but at least they're *our* bastards"!

          "Kill all the people who don't agree with us!" is the cry. But is that them or is that you?

  8. Terry Cloth

    What they're up against

    The Fairphone blog post “The search for responsibly sourced gold for the Fairphone” talks about one of the roadblocks: roughly all the electronic gold in the world gets routed through the Shanghai Gold Exchange, then distributed to manufacturers. (Scroll a bit over halfway down to “The gold route: All roads lead to Shanghai”.) Try tracking your bit of responsible gold through that—the U.S. Department of Commerce has thrown up its hands. [PDF: see p. 3, ¶ 3]

    (That PDF, it happens, is Commerce‘s response to the Dodd-Frank requirements.)

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Another round of law-making going around again.

    I'm guessing election season is getting near all around the world... The old "let's pass a law and make everyone feel good about voting us back in" ploy. yeah... I'm repeating myself...

  10. Tim Worstal

    They can do this sensibly.....HC Starck and perhaps 20 other companies in Europe sign up and say "we don't use blood minerals as feedstock" and we're done. And, given that none of those EU based smelters will use blood minerals as feedstock anyway, they're all signed up to the industry plan not to and even if they weren't, Dodd Frank would make them not use them, this will cost about 3 pence.

    Hurrah etc.

    I've seen another version of this, from Global Witness (along with Enough Project, the originators of the basic campaign) which would require *every* importer into the EU of *every product* that *could conceivably contain* blood minerals, *however processed*, must audit its global supply chain down however many levels it goes. So, you import, commercially, half a dozen Chinese manufactured sound cards for $50 each and you need to know where the gold plating the connectors came from, the tin for the solder, the Ta in any capacitors (won't be any tungsten in it). Or some landfill Android phones for $30 which have a vibrating alarm: that will have tungsten in it. You now need to know whether that ore came from DRC and if it did, which specific mine it came from. Or a few bars of machine tool steel (which is W heavy).

    A complete, total and absolute fucking nightmare.

    Guess which version the Greens are pushing for?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Guess which version the Greens are pushing for?

      As the second would seem destined to make illegal anything more highly advanced technologically than the horse and cart, that one?

      Always look for the ulterior motive......

    2. x 7

      Tim

      but even if you choose option (1) it still won't work. Much (all?) of the ore and metals come through commodity markets via brokers and often the real origin isn't traceable. Starck and the others would simply not be able to state what you want with any degree of truthfulness.

      Of course theres another element here thats been overlooked: while "blood metals" have all the attention, the conditions of workers in many other parts of the metal and mineral mining business are pretty grim. Sulphur miners killing themselves by extracting sulphur from live volcano calderas. Andean natives being treated as near-slaves extracting iodine

      |To understand what I mean, take a look at the first scene from the film Powaqqatsi

      http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/174812/Powaqqatsi_Life_in_TransformationFull_Length/

      This is of a Brazilian gold mine. Not a "blood" mine, but it may as well be

      1. Tim Worstal

        Erm, excuse me....

        "Much (all?) of the ore and metals come through commodity markets via brokers and often the real origin isn't traceable."

        You do know that I am a commodity broker? Working on the edges of this field? In fact, I've done substantial work with both Cabot and HC Starck (respectively, the US and EU processors of tantalum)?

        And absolutely the first thing you get asked is "what's the origin?".

        The answer "Dunno" means you get told to fuck off. And they will test the stuff once it arrives so if you've switched labels you will get caught (all mines have different trace elements in them, you can identify which mine by those trace elements, we do have a database of them all and the trace elements and yes, every shipment is tested against it. For every shipment is going to be analysed anyway just so that everyone can see what the buggery is in that ore anyway, so they can work out how to treat it and how much to pay for it).

        " the conditions of workers in many other parts of the metal and mineral mining business are pretty grim. Sulphur miners killing themselves by extracting sulphur from live volcano calderas."

        That Indonesian volcano is pretty stupid, it has to be said. For every oil refinery produces millions of tonnes of sulphur a year as it extracts it from the crude. Most of them will pay you to take it away too. Indonesia has absurd import rules though, so free sulphur can't actually be imported.

        1. x 7

          Re: Erm, excuse me....

          Tim

          I also used to deal in metals and chemicals - but from the other end of the market: smaller scale stuff for R&D purposes. I used to deal with most of the metal majors - both those you mention, plus companies like Teledyne Wah Chang. Johnson Mattthey. Englehardt, various South African (Osmium / Platinum / Palladium) and Chinese (Lanthanides and Lactinides), several others I've forgotten and almost always if you tried to get an idea of origin the conversation stopped. Try to find the source of a batch of cobalt or molybenum ? No chance. Too commercially sensitive. They might ID the refinery, but the source of the ore? No way. Maybe things have changed, or are different at your end of the business, but you can be certain that your experience appears to be different than mine.

  11. Nimi

    Blood metal works both ways!

    I can't help thinking that it is all very well and good to make a law aimed at preventing the flow of so called Blood Metals to manufacturers. Voluntary or not, it’s a start! Even if at the end of the day it will probably do more to highlight the issue than actually solve it.

    I know the world is a complicated place! Even so I can't help thinking about the Blood Metal that flows the other way in the form of guns, mines, missiles and all the other military equipment needed to stage war and support military regimes. In “general terms” weapons are the very instruments used to create many of these problems in the first place. It would seem that without the abundant supply of arms fuelling these conflicts and governments they may not be able to exist in the first place and the issue might far less significant!

    Perhaps the international community should clean its own house first!

  12. Nimi

    Blood metal works both ways!

    I can't help thinking that it is all very well and good to make a law aimed at preventing the flow of so called Blood Metals to manufacturers. Voluntary or not, it’s a start! Even if at the end of the day it will probably do more to highlight the issue than actually solve it.

    I know the world is a complicated place! Even so I can't help thinking about the Blood Metal that flows the other way in the form of guns, mines, missiles and all the other military equipment needed to stage war and support military regimes. In “general terms” weapons are the very instruments used to create many of these problems in the first place. It would seem that without the abundant supply of arms fuelling these conflicts and governments they may not be able to exist in the first place and the issue might far less significant!

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