Intel announced its broad environmental goals today, covering its corporate responsibility plan for 2020. Among the improvements its shooting for is to have the first "fully validated" conflict-free microprocessor available by the end of 2013. There are four so-called "conflict minerals" generally found in microprocessors such as the ones that Intel produces: gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten. Among those, tantalum is also one of the controversial rare-earths metals subject to much scrutiny as of late. Rare-earth metals are complicated to mine and China, which has most of the world's stores, has steep export taxes and quotas in place which have made the mining and use of them controversial. Much of the tantalum used in electronics is processed from Coltan, which is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the profits of smuggling and mining of the ore are widely believed to finance the military occupation of the country.
Intel's plan is to produce a microprocessor produced with conflict-free tantalum by the end of 2012, with the fully conflict-free model due by the end of 2013. Among the other changes on its list of priorities is to increase the energy efficiency of laptops and data center products by 25 percent by the year 2020.