Continued from Part One.

So while the degree of risk associated with the supply of each metal can be debated in broad terms, the layman can see how a country deprived of access to a ready supply of material would have problems maintaining a military the size of the United States’.

As an article in Proedgewire points out, President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget request includes $615 billion in military spending, but is largely silent on key strategic and critical material programs.

The US has operated a strategic reserve and a few metals such as tungsten, germanium and beryllium are said to be sufficiently covered by existing stockpiles to not be at risk, but others such as antimony, tantalum and bismuth would require significant stockpiles to safeguard supply.

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Last week, MetalMiner ran a story examining the import and export trends for tantalum. The author discussed the skyrocketing number of tantalum imports compared to falling US exports.

As a follow-up commentary to that guest post from our friends at Zepol, we’d argue the bigger story involves the month-to-month trends of imports (and not so much of exports) – and specifically the time period before and after the August 22, 2012, SEC conflict minerals rule promulgation.

According to Chris Grove, director of communications at Commerce Resources, a junior tantalum mining firm: “In Q1 2013, we became aware of a company in China that stopped selling material to the US…we understood that their feedstock did not comply with the conflict minerals rules.” In terms of the yearly import trends reported on MetalMiner, Grove said, “to be honest, the story’s trends make sense through the eighth month of 2012 (Ed. note: that Chinese imports increased), but this can’t be the story post-Aug. 22,” given the new rules.

“I would expect to see that pie graph shift quite significantly with China looking a lot different,” Grove suggested, “but the real question we have to ask is, has the country of origin changed along with the quantities?” Grove expects a significant drop in 2013 imports from China. If no data supports that then, “the tantalum industry has found a way around the ruling.”

And therein lies the rub.

RELATED: Do you source tantalum? Do you know how to comply with SEC Conflict Minerals rule? Check out Conflict Minerals EDGE.

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MetalMiner interviewed Jay Celorie, Global Program Manager at Hewlett-Packard and active participant in the EICC® (Electronic Industry Citizen Coalition) and GeSI® (Global e-Sustainability Initiative), regarding MetalMiner’s white paper, “The Definitive Guide to Conflict Minerals Compliance for Manufacturers.” Jay shared some of his thoughts on some of the key issues around conflict minerals, our paper and various approaches.

This portion of the interview continues from Part One, available here.

On Tin, Tungsten and Gold Supply Chains

“The electronics industry has been successful in recruiting many of the tantalum smelters to join the CFS Program. This was accomplished in part for many reasons.

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Neon-Alphabet_Study-O-Portable3TG, OECD, EICC, SEC, CFS, DRC…

Is this alphabet soup washing over you, scalding your skin, blinding your eyes?

We know how it feels. That’s why we’ve put together the definitive one-day conference for manufacturing professionals who source tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold-containing metals and materials – to answer all your conflict minerals compliance questions:


Taking place at the Hotel Sax in downtown Chicago, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (CDT), this conference focuses on in-depth solutions, not just idle chatter and boring PowerPoint presentations.


Specific implementation tools, including

  • Checklists
  • Project plans
  • Templates
  • Technology maps and decision guides

Not to mention intimate discussions with the industry’s leading voices in conflict minerals compliance.


Download our recent free whitepapers:

Register NOW: Conflict Minerals EDGE

We recently caught up with Jay Celorie, Global Program Manager at Hewlett-Packard and active participant in the EICC® (Electronic Industry Citizen Coalition) and GeSI® (Global e-Sustainability Initiative), regarding MetalMiner’s white paper, “The Definitive Guide to Conflict Minerals Compliance for Manufacturers.” 

Intro: Sending an Economic Signal Toward Responsible Sourcing

A simple way to think about conflict minerals – and complying with SEC rules – is making sure that your economic signal is directed toward responsible sourcing. The EICC and GeSI organizations have provided a tool (the reporting Template) and a program (the CFS Program) to enable any company to accomplish this task.

From an industry perspective, we are focused on these efforts – the CFS Program, which validates conflict-free smelters, and the common reporting Template – a common data format to identify smelters in a company’s supply chain. Companies need to ask their suppliers to use these to identify their smelters and then ask those smelters to get on the CFS list.

If they are not on the CFS list, they must understand their customers may switch to smelters who are on the CFS list. Within the next few years, we expect to have a critical mass of CFS smelters and refiners for all four metals (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold) that will enable electronics companies (at a minimum) to confirm they are sourcing conflict-free.

Below, Jay Celorie shared some of his thoughts on some of the key issues around conflict minerals, our paper and various approaches.

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MetalMiner, in conjunction with The Elm Consulting Group International, has just issued a new white paper that examines how downstream organizations (companies from smelter down to OEM) have begun to implement the new conflict minerals compliance requirements.

The authors analyze the OECD Cycle 3 Final Report, “Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk.”

What Makes This Analysis Different?

  • The paper covers the practical issues involved with actual conflict minerals compliance programs. For example, the analysis discusses the growing consensus around various EICC/GeSI initiatives, particularly the Conflict-Free Smelter Program, along with the reporting template.
  • It also highlights some of the early findings around how companies have gone about identifying and gathering data from suppliers, as well as the challenges around validating supplier responses to questionnaires and templates.
  • It features how companies have taken a flexible approach to program design.

One of the more significant early findings involves the lack of overlap between REACH/RoHS regulatory compliance programs and conflict minerals implementation programs. The early pilot results suggest companies will find little to leverage in existing regulatory compliance programs.

The actual OECD report appears here. The OECD paper, 85 pages long, provides a detailed discussion and explanation of the pilot program. The white paper issued by MetalMiner and The Elm Consulting Group contains 10 pages of analysis and key takeaways on the OECD report.

Download the FREE MetalMiner/Elm Consulting Group report:

The Economist covered an industrial development in a recent article entitled “A Tantalising Prospect” that would catch the eye of anyone remotely interested in the metal industry.

The process described effectively allows the reduction of high-melting-point metal ores such as titanium, tantalum, and potentially other expensive metallic elements including neodymium, tungsten and vanadium, from the oxide to the metal in powder form.

The process is a type of electrolysis, but rather than hold the metal oxides in liquid form, it holds them as metal powders in a liquid salt at much lower temperatures and hence requires much lower energy inputs than would be the case if they were reduced in the liquid state.

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Below is an excerpt from MetalMiner’s recently published white paper, “The Definitive Guide to Conflict Minerals Compliance for Manufacturers.” If your company uses, say, HRC steel in its products, you should download this paper.

Another question raised by the SEC rules involves the purchase of what we might deem “vanilla commodities,” such as steel HRC (hot rolled coil), from mills that also produce tinplate. (Publicly traded integrated steel producers that produce tinplate are subject to the SEC conflict minerals rules).

Does an OEM buying vanilla HRC from a tinplate producer (e.g. US Steel, ArcelorMittal, Severstal, etc.) need to verify that the steel producer is certified conflict-free, or can the OEM effectively ignore that part of the due diligence process since HRC doesn’t contain tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold (3Ts/G)?

The matter becomes more complicated if the implementation 
of the conflict-free program on the part of the OEM involves what we would term this “supplier-centric” approach, as we have described, vs. a “part/product-centric” approach.

Download the complete paper for free.

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MetalMiner's Conflict Minerals Legislative Guide

Source: Elm Consulting

It has been a few months since the SEC passed its comprehensive set of “Conflict Minerals” rules, and in that time we have covered the topic at great length.

But the steps manufacturers must take to comply with the conflict minerals legislation in 2013 and beyond are only beginning to come into the light.

As Lisa Reisman noted on the day of the initial ruling, the rules will require “companies and their supply chains purchasing the group of metals called ‘Conflict Minerals’ (this group of metals includes: tantalum and columbite-tantalite or coltan, tin and cassiterite, tungsten and wolframite, gold and their derivatives) to file annual audited statements by May 1 of each year.”

In an effort to alleviate some of the stress felt by manufacturing organizations and others affected by the new legislation, Elm Consulting created a Conflict Minerals Legislative Guide that we would like to share with you, our readers.

Within the guide, you will not only find a general overview of the new rules, but also some advice on what to your company should do in the next 12 months.

You may register to receive the guide right here:

Legislative Guide Download



This is the second part of a two-part series examining the legal arguments put forward by manufacturing organizations against section 1502, the Conflict Minerals rule passed as part of Dodd-Frank. Readers can read the first part here.

MM: What challenges do practitioners, including the US manufacturers, have in making their case?

SA: One of the biggest challenges will be the fact that SEC acted under an explicit mandate from Congress. In recent history, the SEC was challenged on the proxy access rule and the petitioners succeeded in blocking the rule. But in that case, the SEC wasn’t acting because Congress told it to.  In this case, Congress required the SEC to act.  With regard to many of the points raised by petitioners, the SEC went through a fairly exhaustive evaluation of alternatives and then describes why it reached certain conclusions, including references to Congressional intent.

Another difficult aspect of this petition for review is the question of how to evaluate the adequacy of the SEC’s economic analysis. The SEC acknowledges that Congress said Section 1502 was enacted, in part, to address humanitarian goals. The benefits of such intended outcomes are hard to quantify.  It will be very interesting to see once the issues are briefed by both petitioners and the SEC, how the court will evaluate the adequacy of an economic analysis in a situation where the benefits are uncertain.  The SEC was straightforward in stating that it could do an analysis of compliance costs, but that it was not equipped to quantify the benefits of a hoped-for reduction in conflict.

Access the MetalMiner Conflict Mineral Legislative Guide Here

MM: What do you make of the argument that the rule is a violation of the First Amendment?

SA: It’s a hard argument to make. One of the key roles of the SEC is to prompt public disclosures from entities like the companies subject to this rule.  Companies are required to disclose all sorts of information pursuant to the securities laws and regulations.

MM: And now the billion-dollar question – based on the legal arguments put forward, what would you recommend manufacturing organizations do from an implementation standpoint?

SA: It’s possible that the petitioners might get some of the language of the rules changed. But they have a high burden. I wouldn’t suggest manufacturing organizations stop doing what they are doing.

(Editor’s Note: In other words, manufacturing organizations should continue with their plans to implement the rules.)