Apple has revealed in its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report that it has informed four smelters–who provide metals used in the production of the company’s devices–that they will be dropped from the supply chain after refusing to submit to “conflict mineral” audits … 

The audits are designed to ensure that the extraction of the minerals used does not finance armed groups associated with human rights violations:

“Tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold are called conflict minerals because, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjoining regions, their extraction may finance or benefit armed groups associated with human rights violations. Apple is dedicated to using only conflict-free minerals in our products […]

Unfortunately, even after extensive encouragement, there were four smelters that were unwilling to commit to be audited by a third party, so Apple put these smelters on notice that they will be removed from our supply chain.”

Apple first began audits of its smelters in 2011. The complexity of the supply chain meant that setting up the necessary audits took some time, but the company advised smelters that all would have to agree to submit to audits by the end of last year. The company said that 135 audits have already been completed, with a further 64 in progress.

Apple has been criticized for using suppliers traced to mines employing child labor. SVP of Operations Jeff Williams said last year that the company could take the easy way out, and avoid countries where child labor was known to be used, but believed it could do more good by working for change in those countries.

Williams wrote in this year’s report that it had also banned suppliers from using bonded labor, where employees pay a fee to recruiters in return for jobs with Apple’s suppliers. Last year’s report focused on working conditions and the environment.

Via the WSJ

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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