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May 20, 2024
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DR Congo Claims Apple Uses “Blood Minerals” in Products

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is accusing Apple of using “blood minerals” extracted from the country’s embattled east in its products, lawyers representing the African country said Thursday.

The DRC’s lawyers have sent Apple a formal cease and desist notice seen by AFP, effectively warning the tech giant it could face legal action if the alleged practice continues.

Contacted by AFP, Apple pointed to statements from its 2023 annual corporate report regarding the alleged use of so-called conflict minerals that are crucial for a wide range of high-tech products,

“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.

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.

In April 2022, Global Witness accused ITSCI of contributing to the laundering of conflict minerals, child labour, trafficking and smuggling in the DRC.

Apple is not the only major company relying on the “flawed” system, said Global Witness.

Tesla, Intel, and Samsung are among the companies that depend on ITSCI, but Global Witness’s report revealed that “ninety percent of the minerals” from specific mining sites reviewed by the programme did not come from validated mines.

The DRC’s formal notice to Apple includes questions about “3T minerals used in Apple products” and demands that the tech company respond “within three weeks.”

“All legal options are on the table,” the lawyers told AFP.

The UN said in 2023 that people living in eastern DRC face unheard-of violence, naming it one of the “worst places” in the world for children.

Minerals are transported into Rwanda, where they are laundered to outmanoeuvre oversight meant to prevent the sale of “conflict minerals,” says Global Witness.

“The responsibility of Apple and other major tech manufacturers when they use blood minerals has for too long remained a black box,” the lawyers told AFP.


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