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Conflict Minerals

Conflict Minerals

It’s unlikely that you think much about this, but when you press the BOOM!™ Audio Infotainment ON button,  it activates the audio system’s logic board which is soldered together with tin.  The Tantalum helps keep highly conductive materials in check and helps signals pass swiftly through the device.  And the Tantalum Oxide helped engineers create thinner, smaller electronics to reduce the space required on the motorcycle.  And the Gold which is highly conductive and used sparingly, is used in wires and in integrated chip (IC) films when a very pure connection between components is required.

There are numerous components on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that may contain conflict minerals: brake pads, fuel tanks, on-board electronics, radiators and batteries.  I previously blogged on this HERE back in 2011.

For the uninitiated, conflict minerals — tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold, or “3TG” — is sourced from or distributed by 10 countries in central Africa, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The conflict minerals moniker comes from the fact that proceeds from their sale are used to fund armed groups that commit human rights crimes and other atrocities in regional African conflicts.  More people have heard about “Blood Diamonds” than conflict minerals, but the atrocities are similar.

A miner washes tin ore in the Kalimbi mine in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A miner washes tin ore in the Kalimbi mine in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

And there is always the presence of the militant groups or organized criminal gangs, and the nexus between them which creates an intricate link between terrorism and organized crime.   These armed groups reap more than $100 million a year from the mineral trade in eastern Congo, and regularly slaughter innocents as they jockey to control the region’s most valuable mines and transportation routes.

Harley-Davidson has publically committed to supporting responsible sourcing of its materials from suppliers that share their values around human rights and environmental responsibility. The motor company is committed to complying with the “Conflict Minerals” requirements under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The 2010 law requires companies to publicly disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals.  And Harley-Davidson has until May 31, 2014, to file their first SEC disclosure regarding conflict minerals, with annual disclosures required after that.

Harley has posted and you can read their disclosure HERE.

In Section 4, it highlights that responses to their inquiries from ten suppliers which suggest that 3TG is sourced from Covered Countries, but it’s not clear if it was in the products or directly benefited armed groups.  Harley-Davidson communicated the need for additional information with the relevant suppliers and whether any of the 3TG that these suppliers reported were actually contained in components or parts that the suppliers supplied to H-D.

To be clear, Harley-Davidson did not find any evidence to suggest that any of the 3TG in their supply chain may have originated in a Covered Country or finances any armed groups in the Covered Countries, but did suggest that the quality of information that they obtained from their supply chains needed improvement and they were taking future actions to improve their processes.

So the question of the day is if given a choice, are you more likely to buy a “Conflict Mineral” free motorcycle?

I believe that H-D is a responsible global corporate citizen in all aspects of their business, both internally and externally.  But, wouldn’t it be cool if they pushed hard on this initiative and announced they are proud to manufacture the world’s first commercially available conflict-free motorcycle!

For more information you can track Harley-Davidson updates on this topic HERE.

A good video guide by VICE on the Congo is HERE.  The Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative is HERE.  Looking to get more involved?  Check out: The Enough Project; The Falling Whistles; The Responsible Sourcing Network; Resolve.

Photos courtesy of Reuters and the Periodic Table.

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