Apple has said it has "lead a fact-finding visit" to Bangka Island, Indonesia to identify if its suppliers are sourcing tin from unregulated and illegal mines. In an update to its Supplier Responsibility page on its website, Apple confirmed it has funded a new environmental task group to investigate mining operations in the area to "better understand the situation." The move addresses a sustained Friends of the Earth campaign calling for Apple to publicly come clean about where the tin in its smartphones comes from.
249 suppliers are using tin in components of Apple products
According to the company, 249 suppliers are using tin in components of Apple products, which use it more than any other metal. While Apple says it is working to "better understand the situation" in Indonesia, Samsung has already admitted to using tin sourced from Bangka Island. "While we do not have a direct relationship with tin suppliers from Bangka Island, we do know that some of the tin that we use for manufacturing our products does originate from this area," Samsung said in a statement to Friends of the Earth. The company also said it had funded an investigation and pledged to take action.
Bangka and its sister island Belitung reportedly produce 90 percent of Indonesia's tin, which is used to solder components in smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices. Mining on the island has been linked with destroying forests and farmland, damaging coral reefs, and impacting local communities. Last year, Bloomberg reported that six miners died during one week during the spring, with five of them buried alive by landslides in poorly-built pits. Friends of the Earth says that since November 2012 it has received over 24,000 signatures asking for Apple to publicly state if it uses tin from the island. Now that the company is investigating, it may soon get the answer it is looking for.