The technology company Apple has announced that it is using only conflict-free tantalum, a mineral crucial to the production of cellphones and computers that is often mined in areas rife with warfare and warlords.
At the urging of the bishops conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Catholic Relief Services and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops backed efforts to reduce the trade in minerals mined illicitly where profits from their sale fund fighting in the Eastern Congo.
The conflict minerals provisions of the 2010 Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges to determine if any of their minerals are sourced from conflict zones such as the Eastern Congo. Such companies must then submit an independently audited report describing the minerals’ source, processing facilities, chain of custody, and other details. Once this reporting and auditing system is in place, companies can label products “DRC conflict free”, if such products do not contain minerals that directly or indirectly benefit armed groups in the DRC or a neighboring country.
That Apple has moved to ensure tantalum in its products is conflict free is extremely significant. We hope that other companies will aggressively commit to meet this important standard.
“The ethical sourcing of minerals is an important part of our mission to ensure safe and fair working conditions,”Apple said in its 2014 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report. “In January 2014 we confirmed that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.”