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How tin gets from deadly Indonesian mines to smartphones and tablets

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Miners on the Indonesian island of Bangka are destroying the landscape and endangering the local population to extract tin, a vital component in the solder used to bind electrical components.

Circuit Board (Verge Stock)
Circuit Board (Verge Stock)

Bloomberg Businessweek has published an in-depth feature on the global tin supply chain, showing how vast quantities of the metal — used in solder for electrical components — come from dangerous and often illegal mines on the Indonesian island of Bangka. While buyers turn a blind eye, independent miners are destroying the island's countryside and disrupting its fishing industry with dredging boats, endangering the lives of their employees in the process. According to the article, six miners died during one week this spring, with five of them buried alive by landslides in poorly-built pits. Ironically, much of the demand for Indonesian tin comes from US companies hoping to avoid the legal issues associated with sourcing "conflict minerals" from African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo — head over to Bloomberg to read the whole story, which provides a detailed explanation of the complex problems involved in an increasingly strained industry.