Apple has been unable to rule out the possibility that some of its products contain ‘conflict minerals’ produced during a number of ‘incidents’ involving violent armed groups.
It has investigated 15 cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo involving organisations such as militias which have been identified as ‘perpetrators of serious human rights abuses’, it revealed yesterday.
The tech giant has just released a second conflict minerals report, which details its work to ensure metals and other raw materials bought from the DRC are not used to raise money to finance violent conflict.
These incidents all took place in 2016 and involved crimes such as robbery, theft and ‘illegal taxation’. They came to light due to Apple’s huge drive to banish conflict minerals from its supply chain.
Some mines in Congo are known to use slaves and child labour, whilst others are run by cruel militias to raise money for personal gain or to buy weapons and pay soldiers.
In this report, Apple admitted that it cannot say for sure whether materials produced during these ‘incidents’ were used in its gadgets.
It wrote: ‘With with respect to the 15 incidents identified, Apple has not, to date, been able to determine whether specific minerals were included in Apple’s products.
‘The challenges with tracking specific mineral quantities through the supply chain currently continue to prevent the traceability of any specific mineral shipment through the entire manufacturing process.’
To ensure ‘supply chain accountability’, Apple reviewed a total of 1,300 reports from mines, smelters and refineries, which included ‘human rights and security concerns’.
This investigation led to the closure of some mines and the payment of damages to miners and their families.
Its conflict minerals report said that all of the smelters and refiners involved in producing materials to make products had taken part in a third party review.
How Congolese people are enslaved, according to Free The Slaves
- Militias round up villagers at gunpoint and force them to work.
- False criminal charges are levied against people who are then sentenced in corrupt or fake trials to hard labour in mines.
- People are enslaved to pay off household or business debts. Money, food, or tools are advanced to labourers, but phoney accounting and abusive interest rates prevent them from repaying the debt. Miners are forced to keep digging.
- Sex slavery is rampant. Militias abduct women and girls from villages. Others are lured to mining zones by false promises of financial support.
It wrote: ‘Apple is committed to responsible sourcing and seeks to ensure that the minerals in its products do not directly or indirectly finance armed conflict or benefit armed groups.
‘As of December 31, 2016—and for the second year in a row—all identified smelters and refiners in Apple’s supply chain for all current products had participated in an independent third-party conflict minerals audit program.
‘Throughout its supply chain, Apple aims to drive industry-leading practices for responsible sourcing, including from high-risk areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and adjoining countries.’
Apple’s Conflict Mineral report was filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which defines an armed group as one ‘that is identified as a perpetrator of serious human rights abuse’.
In a separate report detailing its ‘efforts to combat human trafficking and slavery in our business and supply chains’, Apple said it was supporting a group called the Fund for Global Human Rights which works to tackle slavery and child labour in the Congo.
It also continued to work with a separate non-profit called Pact in the DRC which works with neighbourhood committees and local leaders to ’empower mining communities, protect children living in those communities, and provide vocational training for at-risk youth to learn skills other than mining.’