"The minerals trade is a symptom of a deeper problem â¿¿ that nobody is in charge," said Laura Seay, an assistant professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta who studies the eastern Congo and travels there.
Thursday's report comes just days before a key development is expected on the issue. U.S. legislation passed in July 2010 required American companies using tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold to reveal their supply chains in an effort to avoid using conflict minerals.
However, the law has not been fully implemented yet because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to draft rules on how the law should be applied. The SEC is due to vote on those final regulations next Wednesday.
Even though that law is not yet in effect, the Enough Project said its existence already had helped propel many companies to take action.The Washington-based group praised Intel Corp. for its pledge to produce a conflict-free microprocessing chip by 2013, becoming the first company to publicly commit to such a deadline. It also singled out Hewlett-Packard Co. as "the most active corporate participant in a diplomacy work group on Congo." Apple Inc. was the first company to require its suppliers to use only metals from smelters that have been certified "conflict-free," when enough are available, the Enough Project said. The group also gave high points to Motorola Solutions Inc., Royal Philips Electronics N.V., Acer Group, Dell Inc. and Microsoft Corp., but described other companies as "laggards." "Despite growing public awareness about this issue and significant industry movement, Nintendo has made no known effort to trace or audit its supply chain," the report said. "Sharp, HTC, Nikon, and Canon are taking initial steps to join industry efforts, but their progress remains far behind industry leaders." In a statement released Thursday, Nintendo said it outsources the manufacture and assembly of all Nintendo products and "therefore is not directly involved in the sourcing of raw materials that are ultimately used in our products."