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Congo Challenges Apple on Conflict Mineral Use

Accusations Highlight Issues in Tech Giant’s Supply Chain

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

The Democratic Republic of Congo has raised serious accusations against Apple Inc., questioning the tech giant’s use of conflict minerals in its supply chain. These worries were expressed in an extensive questionnaire written by foreign attorneys on behalf of the Congolese government, which required Apple to reply in three weeks. This development was detailed in a statement on the website of lawyer Robert Amsterdam, issued on Thursday.

Accompanying the statement, Amsterdam’s law firm released a report accusing Rwanda of engaging in the illicit laundering of minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum—collectively known as the 3T minerals—and gold, all sourced from Congo. The report casts doubt on the legitimacy of Rwanda’s mineral production, stating, “Rwanda’s production of key 3T minerals is near zero, and yet big tech companies claim their minerals are sourced in Rwanda.”

For a considerable time now, Apple has insisted that it thoroughly inspects its suppliers to make sure the minerals it uses to make devices like iPhones do not support or financially assist armed organizations operating in areas of war. Apple responded to the most recent questions by citing a document from March in which it stated that it was confident in its monitoring procedures and that it had stopped working with 14 refiners and smelters who refused to take part in audits by third parties.

Additionally, Apple has pledged to improve working conditions in mining towns, particularly in the Congo, and source materials ethically. Even with these initiatives, the Congolese government’s inquiries reveal persistent doubts over the efficiency and openness of these actions. Rwanda, which is rich in ores containing tungsten and tin and is the world’s second-largest producer of tantalum after Congo, according to the U.S. Geological Society, has not yet addressed the accusations raised in the research.

The ongoing conflict in the Eastern Congo, which has been an outbreak of violence and political instability since the mid-1990s following the genocide in Rwanda, serves as a foundation for this controversy. Numerous rebel groups are at war in this area over wealthy minerals and territory, which has resulted in widespread misery and displacement among the local populations.

In addition, analysts from the United Nations have linked Rwanda and certain factions of the Congolese army to profiting from the smuggling of gold and other minerals, causing an estimated $1 billion in losses to the country each year. The investigations of Apple’s supply chain procedures coincide with a global shift in consciousness regarding the moral consequences of obtaining essential raw materials from suppliers. There is growing agreement that companies must be held accountable for their mineral procurement methods, as seen by the laws passed by the US and the EU to limit the import of minerals linked to conflicts.


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