Apple Investigating Illegal Tin Mining on Bangka Island

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Apple has decided to investigate the mines the company uses to produce metallic tin for its popular products. The announcement was made on the company’s Supplier Responsibility page (via Fast Company) after a Friends of the Earth campaign revealed that Apple is using tin in a way that is harming the environment.

According to Friends of the Earth’s findings, the metallic tin may be coming from illegal, unregulated mines and the company that has been proudly green is now linked to the destruction of tropical forests, coral reefs and fishermen’s livelihoods around Indonesia’s Bangka Island. The metallic tin is used by almost 250 of Apple’s component makers.

Apple is committed to using conflict-free minerals, and we’ve joined the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, a joint initiative among governments, companies, and civil society to support supply chain solutions to conflict minerals challenges in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As one of the first electronics companies to map its supply chain for conflict minerals, we actively survey suppliers to confirm their smelter sources. As of December 2012, we have identified 211 smelters and refiners from which our suppliers source tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold.

Bangka Island, Indonesia, is one of the world’s principal tin-producing regions. Recent concerns about the illegal mining of tin from this region prompted Apple to lead a fact-finding visit to learn more. Using the information we’ve gathered, Apple initiated an EICC working group focused on this issue, and we are helping to fund a new study on mining in the region so we can better understand the situation.

Apple has been serious about investigating illegal activities among its suppliers. You may recall that the company has fought against underage workers and for employees’ rights. According to the company’s statement published on the Supplier Responsibility site, Apple doesn’t allow suppliers to act unethically or in a way that infringes upon the rights of workers. The company is monitoring work hours for more than 1 million employee per week.

Bangka Island has been a controversial spot for tin mining, and Apple’s new investigation could shed light on the issue.