Intel pledges conflict-free microprocessor by end of 2013

The company hopes to do away with conflict-tainted tantalum by the end of 2012, with validation for gold, tin and tungsten targeted for late next year.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Intel has pledged to continue squeezing the amount of water and electricity it uses to manufacture its processors -- as well as the amount of energy needed to run them. The company is also taking aggressive steps to comply with new regulations related to conflict minerals.

In its 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report, Intel said it plans by the end of 2012 to eliminate tantalum from conflict-associated sources; by the end of 2013, it is striving to receive validation for producing the first microprocessor that is conflict-free for gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten.

The company writes:

"In practice, our products may already be free of conflict minerals, but it is not possible to know with certainty until a mature system is in place that can validate smelters in our supply chain as 'conflict-free.' Intel and others in our industry have been working together to create such a system. This is a stretch goal for our company given the significant work still ahead and some of the roadblocks and obstacles that exist. However, we believe that this goal can help drive action on this issue and inspire other companies to set their own goals to move our industry more quickly toward improving the situation in the [Democratic Republic of Congo] and surrounding region."

The conflict minerals issue has become a more pressing concern for high-tech companies since the passage of the Dodd-Frank act. That legislation requires publicly traded companies to disclose sourcing of so-called conflict minerals in their reporting starting in 2012 — unless something happens to make the law disappear. The rule requires companies to declare whether their products contain minerals mined from DRC or neighboring countries. That's because the sales of these minerals are often tied to the practice of arming the militia in those regions.

In the 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report, Intel also disclosed its new goal of improving the energy efficiency of its notebook computers and data center technologies by a factor of 25x between 2010 and 2020. (That means, of course, that it is already two years into this particular commitment.)

Intel measures data center efficiency according to how its server technologies perform against the SPECPower_ssj2008 benchmark. The baseline for its efficiency goal is the E56xx series processors. When it comes to notebooks, Intel looks at average battery life, battery capacity and recharge cycles.

When it comes to its own operations, Intel said it will continue to reduce the amount of water used per-chip basis between 2010 and 2010.

In addition, the company hope to reduce its energy usage by an additional 1.4 kilowatt-hours between 2012 and 2012. Intel has already completed more than 1,500 energy efficient and conservation projections in the past decade. Those efforts have helped the company save more than 825 million kilowatt-hours, along with $10.9 million in energy costs.

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