Steve Jobs has admitted the company can’t be sure that Apple products don’t contain “conflict minerals” from war-torn Congo.
In an email to a customer, he said Apple requires all supplier to certify in writing that materials such as tantalum are not from conflict zones.
“But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem,” Wired reported.
The customer had contacted Jobs after reading a New York Times story accusing electronics firms of trying to “hush” the reporting of their use of conflict materials.
Protesters had held a demonstration outside Apple’s new Washington store, calling on the company to commit to using non-conflict minerals.
“Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold,” the Times said. “For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.”
Activist group the Enough Project has posted a YouTube video as a spoof of Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads, pointing out that Macs and IBM computers are using the same materials.
Handset market leader Nokia says it also requires written assurances from suppliers that its products do not include “tantalum derived from illegally mined coltan” in the Congo.
“Despite the complexity and the fact that there are typically four to eight supplier layers between Nokia and any mining activities, we are actively working to tackle these issues,” it said in its 2009 CSR report.