Apple weeds out conflict metals from iPhone and iPad

Apple has said a large chunk of its metal suppliers use conflict-free minerals, amid ethical concerns about how iPhones and other devices are produced.

Apple weeds out conflict metals from iPhone and iPad

Conflict minerals include materials such as tungsten and gold, used for electronics manufacturing and sourced in war-torn areas such as Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The use of conflict minerals raises concerns about the treatment of those sourcing the minerals, and the role of the tech industry in potentially funding local warlords.

In its latest report on supplier responsibility, Apple said every smelter and refiner that provides tantalum metal to its suppliers had been designated conflict-free by a third-party auditor.

Mostly unaudited

But the number of smelters who have either ignored or refused audit requests is considerably higher, according to Apple’s published list of suppliers.

Some 64 suppliers of tantalum, gold, tungsten and tin have been designated conflict free after audits. Another 23 have agreed to an audit in the future.

That leaves more than 100 companies whose status is unknown – primarily gold and tin suppliers based in South Africa, Russia, China and Japan.

Apple said it was “pushing” its remaining suppliers to use verified sources of minerals.

“The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions,” the company said.

However, Apple has had its hand forced under new US regulations, section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which means certain public companies must report the use of conflict minerals to the US Securities Exchange Commission before the end of May. The idea is to shed light on how companies could be funding armed groups in conflict regions.

Intel promised in January that all its chips made this year would be manufactured with conflict-free materials.

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