Congo demands that Apple prove iPhone doesn't use conflict materials

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 25

The Democratic Republic of Congo has told Apple it believes the iPhone maker's supply chain is using materials linked to militia groups.

Apple has been asked to verify that it doesn't use
Apple has been asked to verify that it doesn't use "conflict minerals" in the iPhone



Apple and at least most Big Tech manufacturers have long been accused of sourcing tin, tungsten, and tantalum -- the 3T materials -- from regions where that means funding violent groups. In 2020, Apple revealed that it had stopped using 18 smelters and refiners for flouting the rules over these conflict materials.

Then in 2022, it ceased working with a further 12 suppliers over the issue.

Now as spotted by Bloomberg, however, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is questioning the effectiveness of Apple's stated Supplier Code of Conduct. A group of international lawyers have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Apple subsidiaries in France, asking for answers within three weeks.

"[Year] after year, Apple has sold technology made with minerals sourced from a region whose population is being devastated by grave violations of human rights," wrote lawyer Robert Amsterdam says on his blog.

"Although Apple has affirmed that it verifies the origins of minerals it uses to manufacture its products, those claims do not appear to be based on concrete, verifiable evidence," he continued. "The world's eyes are wide shut: Rwanda's production of key 3T minerals is near zero, and yet big tech companies say their minerals are sourced in Rwanda."

It's not clear precisely what the lawyers have asked Apple. But Amsterdam's blog claims that there are "numerous schemes" that are being used by unspecified groups "through the illegal trade in conflict materials sourced from the Congolese territory."

Robert Amsterdam's company Amsterdam & Partners LLP has been retained by the government of the DRC. As yet, Apple has not publicly responded to this questioning, but it has previously addressed issues regarding conflict materials.

"The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct..., which includes Apple's Supplier Responsibility Standard on the Responsible Sourcing of Materials," Apple told the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2022, "...requires suppliers, smelters, refiners, and recyclers in our supply chain to identify and assess a broad range of risks beyond conflict, including social, environmental, and human rights risks."

"Since 2009, Apple has directed the removal of 163 3TG smelters and refiners from its supply chain (a total of 9 tantalum, 50 tin, 19 tungsten, and 85 gold smelters and refiners)," continued the company's SEC filing. "In 2021, we removed 12 smelters and refiners from our supply chain, including those that were not willing to participate in or complete a third party audit, or that did not otherwise meet our requirements for the responsible sourcing of minerals."



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    XedXed Posts: 2,627member
    It's probably fairly easily to lie and forge documents so I'm all for 3rd-parties pressing big tech companies to prove what they claim is true. If they aren't true — which could be news to them — then this will ultimately force them to do better.
    sidricthevikingmichelb76watto_cobraVictorMortimer
  • Reply 2 of 10
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 1,034member
    I am legitimately curious if they have asked other phone makers the same question.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 10
    The burden of proof is always on the accuser. How does someone prove a negative.  Legally they must show evidence that Apple or any other manufacturer is using conflict materials.  It’s like asking someone to prove they have never spit on the sidewalk or run a red light, or stolen something from a store.  There is not much they can do about it if Apple shows them their supply chain records.  They must show evidence that the accused as commuted the infraction. Not ask for proof they didn’t.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 10
    dpkrohdpkroh Posts: 42member
    BirderGuy said:
    The burden of proof is always on the accuser. How does someone prove a negative.  Legally they must show evidence that Apple or any other manufacturer is using conflict materials.  It’s like asking someone to prove they have never spit on the sidewalk or run a red light, or stolen something from a store.  There is not much they can do about it if Apple shows them their supply chain records.  They must show evidence that the accused as commuted the infraction. Not ask for proof they didn’t.  
    You are confusing audits with trials in court.  This is a request for an audit. The entity being audited is responsible for demonstrating compliance.  Just try saying to an auditor "we have no record of that".  For entities subject to an audit, the audits are at the discretion of the auditor.  That said, there doesn't seem to be any indication that Apple is required to submit to an audit here.  It is a request.  Regardless, turning down a request for an audit, is very bad optics.  It's like saying "We have nothing to hide, but we're not going to let you look".
    muthuk_vanalingammichelb76fred1watto_cobraVictorMortimer
  • Reply 5 of 10
    China recently agreed to invest $7 Billion in DF Congo for infrastructure and mining. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 10
    dpkrohdpkroh Posts: 42member
    JinTech said:
    I am legitimately curious if they have asked other phone makers the same question.
    It is only rational to target the biggest company first, as that is where the largest potential violations in absolute terms are likely to be.  Also puts other companies on notice.  Most bang for the buck so to speak.   Apple doesn't need pity.  This is expected when you are the biggest in your field.  I'm sure Apple would rather be targeted like this for their success, than be ignored for being too inconsequential to be of immediate relevance.
    michelb76watto_cobraJinTechVictorMortimer
  • Reply 7 of 10
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 1,266member
    The sad thing is that we have many of these minerals and metals here in the US, but the climate crazies won’t let us mine them. They want to switch everything to electric but seem to ignore the vast increase in mining that this will require. We can’t source these mineral here, so it’s inevitable that these materials will come from warlords and child labor. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 10
    XedXed Posts: 2,627member
    hexclock said:
    The sad thing is that we have many of these minerals and metals here in the US, but the climate crazies won’t let us mine them. They want to switch everything to electric but seem to ignore the vast increase in mining that this will require. We can’t source these mineral here, so it’s inevitable that these materials will come from warlords and child labor. 
    That's not even remotely accurate. Accepting that climate change is real in no way means you are against mining or drilling for oil or any other weird narrative you've come up with.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 10
    davendaven Posts: 700member
    dpkroh said:
    BirderGuy said:
    The burden of proof is always on the accuser. How does someone prove a negative.  Legally they must show evidence that Apple or any other manufacturer is using conflict materials.  It’s like asking someone to prove they have never spit on the sidewalk or run a red light, or stolen something from a store.  There is not much they can do about it if Apple shows them their supply chain records.  They must show evidence that the accused as commuted the infraction. Not ask for proof they didn’t.  
    You are confusing audits with trials in court.  This is a request for an audit. The entity being audited is responsible for demonstrating compliance.  Just try saying to an auditor "we have no record of that".  For entities subject to an audit, the audits are at the discretion of the auditor.  That said, there doesn't seem to be any indication that Apple is required to submit to an audit here.  It is a request.  Regardless, turning down a request for an audit, is very bad optics.  It's like saying "We have nothing to hide, but we're not going to let you look".
    I disagree. If Apple submits to an audit for this, then what is the next audit? A check on their green power initiative? Giving workers appropriate lunch breaks? Where would it end that anyone can request an audit and if you don’t do it, it looks bad? Just because someone says ‘Audit time!” Doesn’t mean that one should be done. Now if they had some evidence that Apple wasn’t truthful in their claim, let them present it and then request an audit.
  • Reply 10 of 10
    daven said:
    dpkroh said:
    BirderGuy said:
    The burden of proof is always on the accuser. How does someone prove a negative.  Legally they must show evidence that Apple or any other manufacturer is using conflict materials.  It’s like asking someone to prove they have never spit on the sidewalk or run a red light, or stolen something from a store.  There is not much they can do about it if Apple shows them their supply chain records.  They must show evidence that the accused as commuted the infraction. Not ask for proof they didn’t.  
    You are confusing audits with trials in court.  This is a request for an audit. The entity being audited is responsible for demonstrating compliance.  Just try saying to an auditor "we have no record of that".  For entities subject to an audit, the audits are at the discretion of the auditor.  That said, there doesn't seem to be any indication that Apple is required to submit to an audit here.  It is a request.  Regardless, turning down a request for an audit, is very bad optics.  It's like saying "We have nothing to hide, but we're not going to let you look".
    I disagree. If Apple submits to an audit for this, then what is the next audit? A check on their green power initiative? Giving workers appropriate lunch breaks? Where would it end that anyone can request an audit and if you don’t do it, it looks bad? Just because someone says ‘Audit time!” Doesn’t mean that one should be done. Now if they had some evidence that Apple wasn’t truthful in their claim, let them present it and then request an audit.
    ALL of the things you list should be audited at Apple.

    They're notorious for deteriorating working conditions at the retail stores.
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