DRC wants Apple to clarify sources of minerals used to manufacture the company’s products

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government continues to demand answers from Apple, the American multinational concerning its mineral supply practices, in particular tin, tantalum and tungsten-also known as “3T”.

These minerals are crucial for producing electronic devices like smartphones and laptops.

According to the latest media release by the country’s Ministry of Communication and Media, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been required to give answers on the sourcing of minerals used to manufacture the company’s products.

Lawyers representing DRC have issued a formal notice to Apple, cautioning the technology company that it may face legal action if the purported practice persists.

In the letter, lawyers based in France and the US representing the DRC state that Apple’s iPhones, Mac computers, and other accessories are “stained with the blood of the Congolese people.”

Response in three weeks

The international lawyers led by Robert Amsterdam in Washington DC and William Bourdon in Paris, also wrote to Apple’s French subsidiaries, requesting a response within three weeks.

Their statement follows a report by the Amsterdam law firm that alleges Rwanda and private companies are laundering 3T and other conflict minerals from Congo.

The DRC is the top producer of copper and cobalt, essential components in electric batteries, and the leading producer of tantalum globally.

Most of the central African country’s mineral wealth is located in the eastern region, known as eastern Congo.

Plagued by violence

The mineral-rich Great Lakes region in the DRC has been plagued by violence since regional wars in the 1990s, with tensions resurfacing in late 2021 as rebels from the March 23 Movement (M23) started reclaiming large areas of land.

The DRC, the United Nations, and Western nations accuse Rwanda of backing rebel groups such as M23 to gain control over the region’s vast mineral resources, an accusation Rwanda denies.

“Apple has been selling technology made with minerals from a region where the population is suffering from severe human rights abuses,” the DRC’s lawyers wrote.

The letter accuses sites supplying minerals to Apple of sexual violence, armed attacks, and widespread corruption.

The DRC’s lawyers assert that Macs, iPhones, and other Apple products are “stained with the blood of the Congolese people.”

“Notoriously insufficient”

According to Bourdon and Amsterdam, Apple’s efforts to ethically source its minerals are “notoriously insufficient”.

The official letter states, “Apple appears to primarily depend on the vigilance of its suppliers and their adherence to Apple’s code of conduct.”

However, both their suppliers and external audits seem to rely on certification from the Tin Supply Chain Initiative (ITSCI), which the formal notice claims has “numerous and serious shortcomings.”

The ITSCI program, established over a decade ago, is one of the primary mechanisms for ensuring the supply of “conflict-free” minerals in the DRC, according to the British NGO Global Witness.

In April 2022, Global Witness accused ITSCI of contributing to the laundering of conflict minerals, child labor, trafficking, and smuggling in the DRC.

Global Witness also noted that Apple is not the only major company relying on this “flawed” system.

United action against illegal mineral trade

Additionally, the DRC urged the international community to take united action against illegal mineral trade and to advance responsible supply chains: “The government stresses the critical need for complete transparency and greater accountability in managing mineral resources,” the statement concluded.

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