[Health] Fwd: Health OLPC - Congo - eeeBuntu

Chris Leonard cjlhomeaddress at gmail.com
Wed Sep 3 13:39:47 EDT 2008

On Mon, Sep 1, 2008 at 6:27 AM, Paul Commons <paulcommons at gmail.com> wrote:

> Speaking of the Congo, does anyone know where OLPC's capacitors are made?
> Since OLPC's low cost is critical to it's success, I'm a bit concerned on
> whether the coltan for these capacitors is coming from the DRC.  Does anyone
> involved know or can they find out?  I'd appreciate it, as the war in the
> congo is being fueled by coltan demand.

It is a matter of public record that Quanta is OLPC's manufacturing


As Quanta is one of (if not the) largest manufacturer(s) of laptop computers
in the world, I would not be surprised if they sourced components from the
lowest bidder, probably multiple vendors, making it hard to trace the
provenance of the original input raw materials.  However, there has been a
trend in component suppliers refusing to source any tantalum from Central
Africa at all.

 It is a fair point to raise that as a socially-responsible business
partner, OLPC should consider taking stances on responsible sourcing with
their vendors (as they have done so admirably on green issues), although I
suspect OLPC is already leveraging their goodwill to a great extent to keep
the costs down to a bare minimum.  A number of electronics manufacturers are
apparently taking such stances (I think Sony, Nokia, Hitachi, etc.),
largely in response to bad press and awareness of this issue is being raised
by organizations like the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center.


You can see a listing of major capacitor manufacturers on their site, some
may have statements aout their tantalum sourcing poilcies on their


For example, from the UN's Coltan site:
"American-based Kemet, the world's largest maker of tantalum capacitors, has
asked its suppliers to certify that their coltan ore does not come from
Congo or bordering countries."

This is easily enough done, because although coltan is a resource like
"blood diamonds" that is being exploited to fuel wars in Africa; on the
world-wide scale, it seems to be a fairly minor source (probably less than
1%) of the tantalum used in capacitors and so alternate sourcing from
Australia as well as Southeast Asia and China is not overly challenging to
the corporate bottom-line.  As a raw material with a long path to finished
product, it is very difficult to certify tantalum as "conflict free" in the
same way that the diamond cartels have attempted (assuming one believes
those assurances in the first place).

I'd have to speculate that OLPC while probably has relatively little
leverage in this area (although being aware of the issue is important),
raising such a point in conversation with their vendors about the supply
chain would be not be out of line with their overall excellent position on
other elements of socially responsible and green manufacturing.  That said,
you have to understand that it is unlikely that unless vendors as far as two
and three layers removed upstream have taken strong and public stances, it
is unlikely that OLPC can even address this question to your satisfaction.

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