Apple plans to cease using conflict minerals, the company has announced in its annual supplier responsibility report.
As of the end of January, Apple’s entire supply of tantalum, a rare metal used extensively in the production of capacitors, is provided by smelters verified as conflict-free. The move was announced in Apple’s supplier responsibility report, the eighth edition of which was published on Thursday.
As the electronics industry is the biggest customer for tantalum, Apple focused its efforts on securing a clean supply chain for that element. But the company intends for all the tin, tungsten and gold it uses to be similarly verified as from safe and fair sources, and the Guardian understands that the intention is for this to happen by the end of 2014.
When asked why it didn’t simply refuse to buy from unverified sources, the company’s senior vice president of operations, Jeff Williams, told the Financial Times that “we could wave our conflict-free flag but it would do nothing to affect the workers on the ground… what we are focused on is getting a critical mass of suppliers verified such that we can truly influence the demand situation and change things.”
Conflict-free smelters must demonstrate that the minerals they use don’t come from sources whose existence finances or otherwise benefits armed groups associated with human rights violations. The issue is particularly pressing for the four elements Apple is addressing because of the large sources in and around war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.