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    Thursday, April 25, 2024

    DR Congo Accuses Apple of Using Conflict Minerals from War-Torn Regions in Products

    The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has sent a formal notice to Apple accusing the tech giant of using "illegally exploited" minerals extracted from the country's embattled east in its products, lawyers representing the African country said.

    The Paris-based lawyers for the DRC accused Apple of purchasing minerals smuggled from the DRC into neighbouring Rwanda, where they are laundered and "integrated into the global supply chain".

    Contacted by the AFP news agency, Apple France said they wanted to study all the elements of the formal cease and desist notice — a prelude to possible legal action by the DRC — to be able to respond.

    "Based on our due diligence efforts... we found no reasonable basis for concluding that any of the smelters or refiners of 3TG (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold) determined to be in our supply chain as of December 31, 2023, directly or indirectly financed or benefited armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country," it said.

    'Blood minerals'

    The DRC's mineral-rich Great Lakes region has been wracked by violence since regional wars in the 1990s, with tensions reheating in late 2021 when March 23 Movement (M23) rebels began recapturing swathes of territory.

    The DRC, the UN and Western countries accuse Rwanda of supporting rebel groups, including M23, in a bid to control the region's vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.

    "Apple has sold technology made with minerals sourced from a region whose population is being devastated by grave human rights violations," the DRC's lawyers wrote.

    Sexual violence, armed attacks and widespread corruption at sites providing minerals to Apple are just some of the claims levelled in the letter.

    Macs, iPhones, and other Apple products are "tainted by the blood of the Congolese people", the DRC's lawyers said.

    70% of the world’s cobalt

    Recently, a US federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit targeting Apple, Google, Tesla, and other tech giants over alleged child labour in cobalt mining in DRC.

    Despite the plaintiffs having legal standing, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that they failed to meet the necessary legal criteria to proceed with their claims against the companies.

    As nations globally shift towards clean energy, the demand for lithium-ion batteries, essential for powering smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles, is soaring. Cobalt, crucial for these batteries, primarily originates from DRC, supplying over 70 percent of the world’s cobalt.

    However, up to 30 percent is sourced from “artisanal mines,” where thousands of freelance miners toil in conditions described as “subhuman” and “degrading,” earning only a few dollars daily.


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