back to article If only 0.006% care about BLOOD-SOAKED METAL ... why are we spending all this cash?

As El Reg's official dodgy metals dealer, another tilt at the oh-so-fashionable concerns over conflict minerals and that “blood in the mobile” campaign. The essential point is that almost none of us seem to be very interested in the subject so why the hell are we spending billions of dollars on it? You can read past coverage …

  1. John Riddoch

    Misleading article title...

    Oh, /that/ Blood Soaked Metal - I thought this was going to be about Slayer...

  2. Robin Szemeti

    This is good news.

    The supply/demand model would therefore imply that the price of the metal ores from these conflict mines should drop, as the big smelters begin to reject shipments ... and where you have a price difference, there is always an opportunity to make a profit ... ;)

    Beyond a few feminists on Reddit, who appear to be professional complainers, I doubt anyone cares. Just make sure that the amount of blood is at a level that won't leave a stain on my clothing, that's all I ask.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: This is good news.

      And all you have to do is completely trust the big smelters.

      You could also save huge amounts of money by getting rid of the FDA and just asking the manufacturers if their drugs were safe.

      Some genius from the WHO on the radio saying it was unnecessary and inefficient to screen passengers for Ebola arriving on direct flights from the infected area because they were being screened by the Liberian authorities on departure.

      1. Psyx

        Re: This is good news.

        Quite. The entire thrust of the article (save for a wee anti-Guardian-reader diversion in the middle) seems to essentially be 'Sod it, nobody cares if their phone is the child of rape and slavery, so neither should manufacturers; they should be allowed to have the cash as profit instead'.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: completely trust the big smelters.

        Not at all. And the FDA is actually a really good example of a bad player and its effects on the market place.

        There's another federal agency that's involved in quality control for food and you rarely hear about them: Dept of Agriculture. That's because unlike the FDA, they DO depend on big companies to self-test. All the Dept. of Agriculture does is certify certain labs comply with their standards for testing. After that, the buyers and sellers use the labs of their own accord. And, because the labs recognize that there are costs associated with both false positives and false negatives, they minimize both and keeps the costs of producing foods low.

  3. Nick Kew


    How many of us ever heard of "fairphone", before El Reg mentioned them to tell us noone buys them? Not I.

    If a mainstream manufacturer - a Samsung or HTC - were to start talking up ethical values as a principal selling point, that might tell us a lot more about whether anyone cares. Especially if noone else joined them.

    BTW, three Ts? I live near a current Tungsten mine, and lots of old Tin mines.

  4. Frankee Llonnygog

    Would you care enough to pay more for ...

    - chimneys not swept by children

    - sugar not cut by slaves

    - coal not mined by candlelight

    We'd still have all these they were left to the market to correct. One bad law is not an argument for unfettered capitalism.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

      Very slightly odd. If it were legal, today, to stick kids up chimneys, or to have slaves on a sugar plantation, to mine coal by candlelight, do you think that any of those things would actually happen?

      If not (and I don't) then it's not the unfettered capitalism that cause those things nor the law against their happening that stops them happening.

      1. DropBear

        Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

        Try telling me with a straight face that you could announce today owning slaves becoming legal again in the southern US without as much as a single soul setting out immediately to attempt to buy some. Go on, I could use a good laugh. Social perceptions of what is or is not acceptable may evolve solely on their own as well - but without the occasional law declaring something unacceptable basically overnight at a time when large sections of the population still see nothing wrong about it (it has 'always been this way' after all), it might take several centuries longer to get to the same conclusion - if ever.

        1. cd

          Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

          It is happening today, somewhat disguised. I call it Slavery 2.0, although I might have the version number wrong. I'm not in on the planning meetings.

          One of the economic issues with slavery was that it still cost to provide housing and food, the labor wasn't entirely free. The market always wants to cut costs and boost revenue.

          So now in the US they pay slaves, but just enough so that they can administer their own slave quarters. It saves on admin, health, and facilities maintenance. The slaves pay an inordinate share of tax which helps pay for the healthcare they can't afford otherwise.

          This benefits other country-club attendees as well, landlords, utility providers, used car dealers, payday lenders, etc. It has the thin sheen of liberty, but there is absolutely no wiggle room, no one is going far from their quarters. And if they do, they'll spend it on another country clubber's enterprise, like a tavern.

          There's a joke about Rick Perry in Texas; he added so many jobs that you can have 3 of them to stay afloat. It is better than the 3rd world, but it ain't freedom.

          1. LucreLout

            Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

            So now in the US they pay slaves, but just enough so that they can administer their own slave quarters.... This benefits other country-club attendees as well, landlords, utility providers, used car dealers, payday lenders, etc. It has the thin sheen of liberty, but there is absolutely no wiggle room, no one is going far from their quarters. And if they do, they'll spend it on another country clubber's enterprise, like a tavern.

            If you don't see that being low paid has absolutely no equivalence with slavery, then either you're an idiot, or you're being misled by some idiots propaganda.

            I've been low paid - far below minimum wage at a time before such a thing existed. I'm not now of course, because while I was once someones very low paid employee, I've never been anyones slave. The idea is highly offensive on a personal level, and its a big insult to all those that actually do endure slavery.

            I was always free to take on more work, which I did. I was free to persue a better education, which I did. And I was free to move around the country, or even abroad, for better work. Again, that I did. I might not be in anyones country club, but I can certainly afford to buy a very nice tavern. I'm not the only formerly low paid person I know that could buy a tavern either.... perhaps we should start a pub chain?

            Absent any laws preventing it, the only possible reason I'd buy a slave would be to set them free. I'd actively refuse any contact - personal, professional, or financial, with anyone who felt it proper to own another. I dearly hope the rest of the country would join me in that.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

            Are you really this stupid and biased aginst the free market?

            Morons like you propogate the fallacy of white guilt and reparations because you think everyone owes you a living.

            Please give it up, learn to read and get a real education and a job so I don't have to support your stupid lazy ass anymore. Either that or jump off the SF bridge.

            Piss off.

            1. Frankee Llonnygog

              Re: get a real education and a job

              Maybe I have one. Maybe I'm your manager...

            2. Psyx

              Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

              "Are you really this stupid and biased aginst the free market?"

              I'm not against a free market, merely an unregulated one built on the blood of poor bastards living in poverty.

              " you think everyone owes you a living. Please give it up, learn to read and get a real education and a job so I don't have to support your stupid lazy ass anymore. Either that or jump off the SF bridge."

              Judging people with your own map of the world there.

              Maybe we're all perfectly ok for work and wages, but - this may be an alien idea to you - actually give a sh!t about people living in near-slavery in the third world. Just because you're sufficiently distant from the rest of the human race not to care, it doesn't mean that we aren't concerned about the poor sods who have to carry their water home.

              "Piss off."

              Likewise, Mr. A. Coward.

      2. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: If it were legal today...

        Would those things still happen? Not overnight, but yes, the rights and freedoms protected by those laws would disappear. We've seen this happen many times, just as we've seen the lobbyists hard at work to get laws made for our protection repealed - as is no doubt happening now with the Dodd-Frank act.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

        Are ye daft? Nobody has chimneys here, but I have neighbors with roofs put on by 15-16 year old illegal immigrants. Is that not so different?

        1. Graham Marsden

          Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

          We *have* modern day slavery in the UK, courtesy of Iain Duncan Smith. It's his "workfare" scheme.

          Read this Guardian article (yes, it's from Tim Worstall's favorite newspaper!) about a guy who had worked for a Recycling company and got the minimum wage three years ago, but now the DWP has told him he's got to work there again, just to get his benefits.

          In other words, he'd be doing the same job, they'd be getting the same labour, but he would *ONLY* be getting Benefits, not even the minimum wage!

          He refused, so they said "Fine, you're turning down a job, we'll sanction your benefits".

          Nice people...

          1. Brenda McViking

            Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

            Workfare was designed to give people work experience so they can come off the dole (or whatever politically correct name it has now) where they're in the situation that they have been out of work for a long period of time.

            If you refuse to work when you can work and are offered with work, then I completely agree that your benefits should be stopped. Taxpayers do not owe you a living - a lifeline to help you back on your feet, yes, but not a life where you don't have to work.

            He wants his benefits, and he wants to turn down community provided work which allows him to keep it. He is being paid, therefore it isn't slave labour. The fact that the company he'd otherwise be working for isn't paying him is neither here nor there - just semantics. I've been on the dole, I've seen the lengths at which people go to remain workshy, and heard all the sob stories and excuses, which are all too easy to get away with. I know, i've been there, done that, discovered there was more to life and got on with it. The DWP don't need to be nice to the unemployed, they need to get them back into employment. If that hurts people's feelings, tough; it's not the Department of Wishfulness and Pampering.

            This is part of the government acting to ensure that you don't get it both ways at the taxpayers expense, which, as a taxpayer, has my full support. It sure as hell isn't slavery when you're paid, never mind whether it's dressed up as a carrot or a stick.

            1. Graham Marsden

              @Brenda McViking - Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

              > Workfare was designed to give people work experience so they can come off the dole


              Except when, as in the case mentioned, companies can lay off workers (who they would have had to pay) and then get those workers back *FOR FREE*, something has gone wrong.

              That's why IDS and his mates (with the collusion of the Labour Party!) had to rush through a retro-active change in the law to stop them having to pay compensation to people who had been forced to work for nothing at Poundland and similar places.

              If "workfare" actually ensured that people were paid the minimum wage (let alone a Living Wage") I wouldn't have a problem with it, but that isn't what IDS wants because it doesn't fit with the "benefits blame" culture he is fostering.

              I have also been on the Dole but, fortunately, before such nonsense as this came about. Now I work and pay taxes, however I do not begrudge the proportion of that money that goes to help those who need the Safety Net of benefits.

              As for "This is part of the government acting to ensure that you don't get it both ways at the taxpayers expense, which, as a taxpayer, has my full support" I bet you're one of the people who believe what they read in the Daily Mail or other such august purveyors of "the truth" and think that 27% of the total claimed in benefits is fraudulent, instead of the the actual figure which is around *ONE* percent

              (And, of course, it's a tiny fraction of the money lost through tax evasion and avoidance by big corporations...)

      4. Psyx

        Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

        "Very slightly odd. If it were legal, today, to stick kids up chimneys, or to have slaves on a sugar plantation, to mine coal by candlelight, do you think that any of those things would actually happen?"


        I don't doubt for one second that the capacity for human greed outweighs conscience. Someone would do it and their company would make more money and sell goods for cheaper. Market forces would then drive everyone else to do so.

        A substantial number of our clothes are made in sweatshops in buildings with unsafe electrics, remember?

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

          OK, so, greed then. The defining feature of capitalism and or free markets.


          So, you going to make more money by sticking that kid up the chimney or by using the modern brushes on the extension pole?

          You going to make more money by sticking blokes down the mine or using the machinery?

          And the slavery, picking cotton example: more money by using mechanised picking or humans doing it?

          Which makes the higher profit?

          Well, given that the higher profit is made by using the machinery, given first world wages, then the machinery would be used because of greed, wouldn't it?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

      There was a hipster clothing chain here which advertised that all it's cotton hand been "hand picked".

      I'm guessing they didn't have a big African-American following.

    3. The Axe

      Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

      @Frankee Llonnygog, Coal miners switched to using the safety lamp, not because the law changed but because mine owners didn't want to lose their mines after explosions and were persuaded of its safety by Davy.

      Laws were brought into to regulate the use of children to sweep chimneys before education laws cut the supply of children to nearly nothing. Education was required because capitalism needs skilled workers to do better more productive work. Only after compulsory education was a law brought into to stop the use of children to clean chimneys.

      The abolition of slavery might have stopped plantations from using blacks for labour, but they switched to using labour from other countries like India which was slave labour in all but name. It was capitalism which cut down the use of labour with the use of machinery which was even more efficient than very cheap labour.

      So in all the cases you highlight it wasn't laws that stopped the action, but capitalism.

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

        I'll give you the lamp point, though its introduction did lead indirectly to air quality laws and the miners bought their own lamps. In the point about chimneys, you contradict your own argument. And again in the point about slavery - laws abolished it and capitalists did their best to work around the laws. As they do still now, for example on the beaches of Morecambe Bay.

    4. Psyx

      Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

      "One bad law is not an argument for unfettered capitalism."

      Eight plantation owners [and counting] disagree.

  5. Laxman

    Bad economic logic

    This is horrible logic. Companies from Apple to Samsung to Microsoft have made their commitment to conflict free metals extremely clear. This company probably failed because almost no one knew about it and it had no economies of scale in a very competitive market.

    And legislation should support what's right, not what's popular. Equal rights for minorities would never have happened otherwise.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Equal rights for minorities

      Except that's not what actually happened.

      What actually happened was that equal rights for minorities became popular before it became law. The whole reason the US Civil War started when it did was that the slave holding states saw that if US expansion continued without a legal requirement to continue slavery in a certain number of states, they'd be vastly outnumbered and the popular Republican position against slavery would prevail, become a part of the Constitution, and they would lose their slaves.

      Even if you move to the civil rights movements in the 1960s, it still has more popular support than you give credit. The opposition was strictly local, not national. And even in the local areas there was often some determined opposition.

      And the fact of the matter is that slavery was becoming uneconomical. Supporting that many people is expensive, even when they provide some of their own support. One of the great ironies of slavery is that had Eli Whitney not invented the cotton gin to save slaves from the drudgery of pulling the seeds out of cotton, it would have been so costly to produce cotton that slavery would have failed before Lincoln was elected President.

  6. Queasy Rider

    A difference of OPINION

    Four billion dollars??? That sounds like a number they pulled out of their asses, so I'll give my estimate, based on absolutely nothing, nine thousand, six hundred forty-two dollars, sixteen point nine five three cents, total. Down vote away y'all.

    And as for kids up chimneys, slavery, sweat shops, etc, when it comes to money and getting the best deal, the principal of 'ask no questions' still trumps all others.

    As an aside, those who can take from you will take from you, no matter how hard you fought to gain. Just look at those Republican American states that cut teachers' wages by simply nullifying their contracts. With the stroke of a pen teachers were set back years. Do that often enough over the course of time and we all could be facing a modern equivalent of feudalism. And don't think that democracy will defend you. In times of crisis, democracies have never hesitated to suspend civil rights, (they really are only civil privileges, you know), and who decides we have a crisis? Usually the ones who created it for their own gains. Never forget that a democratically elected government prompted WWII's famous phrase which started with, "First they came for..."

    Sorry to get off topic but I had to respond to a head in the sand comment above. Thanks for listening to my OPINIONS.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: A difference of OPINION

      $4 billion is the estimate of the SEC. That's the bureaucracy that has to actually administer this rule of the cost to companies to conform to this rule. How many suppliers does each company have, what do they have to ask of each supplier and how long will it take to do that? When you think that each large company has 50k to 100 k suppliers, it'll cost $50 to $100 to contact and receive a reply from each one and there's 8,000 such listed companies those costs mount up pretty quickly.

    2. JP19

      Re: A difference of OPINION

      "That sounds like a number they pulled out of their asses"

      It has cost me personally at least a tenner to fill out some stupid form from one of my American subsidiary customers to whom I have only ever supplied a handful of not-for resale prototype electronic assemblies. The answers were mostly don't know because I couldn't be arsed to send the same form to 20 of my suppliers.

  7. matthewjs

    This article could have been written 10 or 15 years ago on the subject of fair trade chocolate, coffee and cocoa (or even textiles). Back then it was this incredibly niche stuff that you had to hunt out in a dusty corner of Holland & Barrett's; whereas now we've reached a stage where it's easily available in every supermarket, a sufficiently large number of people are willing to pay a slight premium for it and it's profitable. Even more importantly, the concept of 'fair trade' has become normalised and incorporated into the mainstream, so that now the likes of Cadbury boast that they only use fair trade cocoa. It was a long, hard slog to reach this situation, and if the people behind the earliest fair trade initiatives had given up after only cornering 0.006% of the chocolate market with their first product, then a lot of people would be living under far more desperate conditions today.

    The point is that it's about the long game, about keeping the issue alive and making painful (and often painfully slow) progress towards a worthwhile goal, not about hitting the bullseye with your first dart. It's about the slow accretion of minimal gains and improvements, about the fact that in 2014, 40,000 people own a 'fair phone' compared to 0 people in 2012. I can't imagine that the Fairphone will ever gain huge market share, but if helps keep the issue alive then sooner or later the likes of Apple and Samsung will decide to play the 'fairness' card in a marketing campaign and it'll become mainstream. But if nobody does anything at all to improve fairness (however imperfect and unimpressive their initial actions), then the issue won't ever get off the ground and trickle into people's consciousness. That is why the Fairphone is important.

    Final comment: look at us, 2014 and we're talking about fairness in relation to phones on the Reg board. That would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, because fairness simply wasn't an issue then. So something's obviously happening and we're moving - albeit painfully slowly, but moving - in the right direction. Even you, Tim, by writing this article and drawing attention to fairness in phones, are helping us to get there. So thank you. Or was that your intention all along? ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But Fairtrade is anything but, it is quite simply a mechanism to provide well paying "meaningful" jobs for already wealthy trust fund children in the West; it does nothing effective for those actually supplying the product. In fact it is largely a negative.

      People stupid enough to indulge in the moral preening to actually seek out and buy inferior products because they proclaim "fairtrade" deserve to be mocked for their pretensions. Let's be quite clear, fair trade has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with moral posturing.

      1. LucreLout


        Let's be quite clear, fair trade has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with moral posturing.

        I'm not sure you're right about fair trade. Please explain why it is it is largely a negative as I'd like to better understand?

        I might have misunderstood, but I thought it was about putting a flaw under the prices paid to those at the start of the commodity chain, even if that results (inevitably) in a higher price for the products end consumer - which, yes, may make it inferior quality to something available at the equivalent price. Isn't that considered a fair trade, for those with that ethical viewpoint? (there may be others)

        1. 100113.1537

          Re: @AC

          There have been a number of reports recently (from development charities I think) which have pointed out that "fairtrade" plantations have not resulted in improved working conditions for workers as they have prevented investments in increased productivity. [I use "fairtrade" loosely as there are a plethora of different standards groups out there plonking their labels on stuff (for a fee) after imposing rules on producers.]

          What is not in dispute is that "fairtrade" type labels are still only on a minority of products on the shelves, but at the same time there has been a noted attention paid to workers rights/conditions by many of the larger suppliers (think big coffee and chocolate suppliers) so the industry has taken some of the demand on-board even if they have not bought in to any of the labelling initiatives. Whether this is ethical considerations, marketing or simply because of increased sophistication of production systems requiring better skilled/educated (and therefore better paid) employees is a matter for further discussion. I think this is what Tim is detailing here - major producers will focus on these things even if they are not forced into it as at some stage it costs more to employ "slaves".

      2. Dan Paul

        @AC You are on the money!

        This is just a means to assuage "white guilt" which is something that ONLY the rich can afford.

        Their is no "fair trade" it's just a subsidy.

        1. Soap Distant

          Re: @AC You are on the money!

          @Dan Paul

          "Their is no "fair trade" it's just a subsidy."

          You're spot on there, to my mind, fair trade would be about the cut of the deal that the growers/producers get being made fair. What seems to be happening is that you pay a premium for the end product and the grower/producer gets a little more for their work. All the middlemen benefit as normal.


  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Revealed preferences

    If you asked people to send money to the chancellor to fund fighting in Afghanistan I suspect that preferences would be reveled pretty quickly.

    Even if you did have Cherie Blair doing a tearful piece to camera - "just 1.4 Million pounds can ensure that this village receives it's own cruise missile"

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Revealed preferences

      Part of the problem with the argument (popular in the USA) "if you think the government should have more money you're perfectly free to donate it" is that it's a unilateral and largely meaningless gesture.

      I would not personally donate money to a government, because that is almost meaningless on its own. What meaningful work is the government going to do with another thousand dollars? I would however vote for a tax increase within my marginal bracket, because the result of that would be tangible and significant, and everyone can be satisfied that everyone else is contributing equally.

  9. JP19

    "So why are we happily spending $4bn"

    "of other people's money on this solution which our best evidence tells us won't work?"

    I think you will find 'we' are not happy, on the other hand, politicians are very happy to spend other people's money on waving their ethical willies.

  10. Scroticus Canis

    TAB - That's Africa Baby

    A conflict free Africa is about as achievable as preventing AGW by covering the world in concrete wind farms.

    Forget about the Muslim north where peace reigns under the laws of the Koran because it isn't real Africa.

    There has always been conflict and slavery. People still kill each other over a box of matches in a shebeen (illicit pub) argument, or over grazing rights, or use of the water hole, or over which one of a gang gets to keep the cell phone they have just knifed someone for. No matter how peaceful an area one lives in there is always some thug from elsewhere who wants what you have and who does not care how they get it. Westerners who have not lived in Africa just have no idea of what the (sad) reality is.

    Since most of these minerals get exported to China for refining (or done locally in a Chinese owned and run facility) the American law described is a useful as a $4bn chocolate teapot.

    PS: TAB was in use long before TIA was introduced by Di Caprio.

  11. Jim Lewis

    Flawed logic

    Assessing people's real motivations on how they actually behave instead of how they say they will behave overlooks the extent to which their behaviour is limited by the available options.

    If all sugar was produced by slaves, assuming that as everyone bought only slave produced sugar this meant they were fine with that would obviously be wrong.

    Nothing would change or improve if the profit making machine wasn't motivated to do so. Sometimes winning market share is enough if more enlightened consumers outnumber those who don't care.

    In the many situations where that's not the case legislation is required.

    In this particular case was it necessary/efficient, possibly not (on the evidence you present) but it doesn't negate the fact that usually someone has to take a prinicipled stand to change the direction of the money flow in a less exploitative direction.

    The mere fact that Fairphone tried and therefore highlighted the issue may in itself force others to change their prcatice and make the consumer more discerning.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there was a time when ...

    ... it was legal and morally acceptable to own slaves. Or when it was legal and morally acceptable that women could not vote. Or when inter-racial marriages were illegal and morally unacceptable.

    According to Worstall's - mind-boggingly flawed - logic, none of these restrictions, that are today either illegal - as in owning slaves or denying women the right to vote - or morally repugnant and legally invalid - as in prohibiting inter-racial marriages - should have been lifted.

    Why? Because at the time when these restrictions were in effect, no-one cared about them, let alone rescinding them. Or maybe only 0.006% of people living in those times cared, and that is an insignificant enough amount that it does not matter. and should have been ignored.

    As I've said before: Fortunately, life and society are not as simple as Worstall's understanding thereof.

  13. John Savard

    Wrong Question

    A lot of people do agree the government ought to have more money. More money from people richer than they are, to spend on making life easier for them, and people poorer than they are. So the fact that those people aren't giving their own money to the government in no way implies that they are not sincere in feeling that way.

    There are even people willing to pay higher taxes, but not donate money to the government, because they're willing to get along with less in the way of toys, but not to give up their competitive advantage and relative position compared to others. After all, this money spent on buying fancy cars to impress girls is wasted, so if the other fellow couldn't afford a terribly expensive car either, the girls would just have to be impressed with less.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite apt for Remembrance Day

    no doubt Timmy thinks that the 0.006% of Britons a hundred years ago who thought their fellow man shouldn't be compelled to be the meat in someone else's grinder were equally as wrong.

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime

      Re: Quite apt for Remembrance Day

      If you can read this, thank a teacher.

      If you can read it in English, thank a soldier, sailor or airman.

  15. Graham Marsden

    "The Dodd-Frank Act...

    "...means that all American-listed companies must ask each of their suppliers whether they use minerals from the region and if so, do they distinguish between conflict-free materials and not such. Even the SEC, the body charged with overseeing this process, estimates that this will cost $4bn."

    So, Tim, exactly *how many* American-listed companies would this affect?

    Well according to it will be "about 6,000" which averages out at around $666,666 (nice number) per company if spread evenly (yes, I know it wouldn't, but it puts it in a little more perspective, doesn't it?)

    Given the sizes of the major players involved I'd guess they'd end up paying more than that, but I'd think this is likely to be an entry under "other expenses" on their books. The smaller companies with only a few suppliers would, of course, be paying an awful lot less anyway.

    More importantly, however, is the fact that most people aren't even *aware* of the issue of Conflict Minerals, but if we start saying to chip manufacturers etc "hang on, maybe there's anothe way of sourcing these minerals *without* chucking money into a warzone", they may start to realise that there's a PR benefit too which, naturally, they will trumpet, thus encouraging other manufacturers to follow suit.

    So is Dodd-Frank *really* such a bad thing? Or is it only because it affects your bottom line?

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: "The Dodd-Frank Act...

      Just to be clear: doesn't affect my bottom line in the slightest. I don't deal in any of these metals/ores.

      Further, my hatred of Dodd Frank isn't because I want to see slavery in Congolese mines. It's that Dodd Frank is such an ineffective and bloody expensive way of trying to ensure there's no slavery in Congolese mines.

      1. Identity

        Re: "The Dodd-Frank Act...

        The line item complained about is the most minor part of the act. If you wish to junk Dodd-Frank solely on this score, you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Laws are subject to amendment, and if one part is not doing the job, it can be removed or changed.

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Personally, I don't give a toss about "conflict free" products.

    Conflict diamonds, for example... the mines in a few countries were making the owners a huge profit, while paying the miners almost nothing, long hours, bad working conditions, dangerous, and so on. But, these foreign owners dealt their diamonds through De Beers. Then a civil war or something came up (it depends on the country), the mine owners got kicked out during the process, keeping profits from diamond sales local, and cutting De Beers out. De Beers had sour grapes about having non-De Beers diamonds on the market... but what to do? Play up that (some of) that local money may (well probably) goes towards the local civil war, call them "Conflict diamonds" and "blood diamonds", and force them off the market.

    I really view the "conflict free" minerals similarly, I'm assuming this is largely foreign mine owners being kicked out, and wanting to keep these mines from competing with whatever other (tantalum, tungsten, and tin) mines they own, for the most part. Play up the bad actions of the local warlords and so on, and (just like blood diamonds) it becomes a cause that some will feel quite passionate about.

    edit: Fair trade, on the other hand, I think is a good idea. But it's not the same thing at all.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Personally...

      "Conflict diamonds, for example... the mines in a few countries were making the owners a huge profit, while paying the miners almost nothing, long hours, bad working conditions, dangerous, and so on. But, these foreign owners dealt their diamonds through De Beers. "

      I think that most of us are aware that DeBeers are a gross, criminal organisation. You'd be a fool to buy 'real' diamonds care of them when there are plenty of better, cheaper artificially made diamonds around which aren't blood-soaked.

  17. roger stillick

    Fair Trade confused w/ Free Trade ??

    Joke Alert= if the US Republicans hate Dodd - Frank, then it must be a good,

    Fair Trade= a way for farmers to get paid for their products everywhere on the planet...or,

    Free Trade= no one gets paid for their work fairly w/ all the money kept by the traders...and,

    World Bank= that only allows austery thru out the lands where prosperity once prevailed...see ??,

    Greece and Spain being punished for once being a great place to live...more to,

    IMHO= if the 1 percent Free Traiders gets to keep 99 percent of the money on this planet, and

    we gotta end... Dodd - Frank and Fair Trade promptly along w/ learning to be the 99 percent,

    Neo Surf / Peasents, only this time we don't get protection from the Manor House...2014 reality,

    OMG i just wrote a KOAN...RS.

    caveiat= written while watching "Rocky Horror Picture Show" on the telly...

  18. Identity


    How many Fairphones would $4bn (if that's even the correct figure) buy? Why are they not subsidized and touted by the major carriers?

    NB: I know nothing of the specs of said phone.

  19. Tom 13

    I'd never buy a Fairphone

    Mostly because I'm not in the market for a smart phone, although also partly because most of these feel good operations make we wanna puke. When I see organic vegetables next to regular farm food in the store, you can pretty much bet I'm bypassing the organic vegetables.

    If you're intent on making life better for the miners great. Go into the region, set up a company that will pay miners appropriate wages for their work and do it. But don't whine about the difficulties in setting up that business and sell me a phone based strictly on how well your phone performs.

    Now, to be fair to Fairphones, given this is the first I've heard of them, they haven't had much of a shot at selling me one in the first place. But that's the biggest problem with these sorts of outfits. In failing to recognize that the most important elements of selling a phone are 1) making a good one, 2) making it affordable to the typical buyer, and 3) making the typical buyer aware you are selling a phone they show they have zero conception of why and how real people buy phones.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is really about perceptions...

    Nobody wants to buy a "conflict minerals" smartphone, but quite honestly, they don't want to pay a lot more for their phones either.

    What is needed is a crackdown on the metal smugglers who are bringing these ores to market. Even a relatively rare metal like tantalum requires moving a lot of ore to get to the processed metal. It seems to me that finding these large shipments of ore would be easier.

    Gold it a toughie though, because in these alluvial operations it occurs almost entirely in what is at least a fairly pure and marketable form, so there is a lot less processing and a full load of it takes a relatively tiny amount of transport. And when you get to a destination you can literally melt down the gold into brick/blanks/whatever with an acetylene torch. Then you have something that can be marketed fairly widely.

  21. Kepler

    Do ALL of us really want MORE from government?

    "Sure, we'd all like more from government, . . . ."

    I for one would like less from government. Far less.

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