Intel, the world's largest maker of computer processors, has announced during CES that all its processors are now free of minerals from mines held by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It's the first major US technology company to make such a claim about its products and indeed one of the first high-profile companies to take a stand on the contentious issue, that's left many dead and resources plundered. It's the fruit of four years of work by the company to determine the sources of four crucial metals widely used in electronics manufacturing: tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold.

Eastern Congo is rich in minerals, and economic activity other than mining has been disrupted by nearly two decades of fighting between the government, rogue soldiers and different ethnic groups. There's been widespread concern that foreign purchases of minerals from mines held by armed groups are fueling the conflict, though many experts say the minerals are not the root cause of the fighting.

Intel Haswell

All Intel processors are free of conflict minerals

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich made the announcement during a keynote speech at CES in Las Vegas. A US law passed in 2010 requires US public companies to report whether their products contain minerals from rebel-held mines in Congo. Compliance is difficult for many electronics manufacturers, since a single product like a cellphone can contain components from hundreds or thousands of suppliers. Intel relies on relatively few suppliers for its chips.

There's been concern that the law has amounted to a de facto embargo on minerals exports from an area with millions of people living at a subsistence level. Carolyn Duran, manager of Intel's “conflict minerals” program said that Intel still buys minerals from the region, as long as it's comfortable the mines are in good hands. “We are not intending to leave the region behind,” Duran said.

With inputs from AP

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