Tech giant Apple has said it hopes to stop making use of mined materials like tantalum, tungsten, gold and cobalt (all of which can only be retrieved by mining) in its products and one day intends to ensure everything is made from completely recycled parts.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Apple has been using such mined materials in MacBooks, iPads and iPhones for years but now it’s keen to remove them from the supply chain altogether. Currently, recycled materials only constitute a minor proportion of what is used within the brand’s product line.
In the past, the company has come under fire for making heavy use of resources associated with mines that see children as young as seven carrying out the work, and mines in war-torn regions and in places where environmental protection regulation is sub-standard.
Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are often referred to as conflict minerals because they provide a valuable income source for criminal gangs, rebel groups and so on. Campaign group Enough, based in the US, has been working since 2009 to encourage big-name electronic brands like Apple to be more responsible about where their minerals are sourced from and to help deliver peace and justice in Africa.
The aim is to bring about real consequence for the facilitators and perpetrators of genocide and similar atrocities, countering armed groups and regimes that are fuelled by the pillaging and trafficking of minerals and other natural resources.
While it seems as though Apple is taking a decisive step forward in this regard, the timeframe of “one day” is relatively vague so there’s no telling when the brand will stop making use of mined materials such the aforementioned conflict minerals. It has also said that it won’t be giving its customers the right to repair their devices so as to increase the longevity of its tech products.
Speaking to Vice, vice-president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson said: “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it. We’re a little nervous but I think it’s really important because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going. We are committing as a company to not necessarily having to source from the earth for everything we need.”
Cobalt is yet another desirable mineral that is now being mined for as it’s a vital component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are used to power laptops, smartphones and electrical vehicles, all of which are produced by big industry players like Samsung and Apple.
In fact, according to the Washington Post, Apple has acknowledged that cobalt from mines in southern Africa has ended up as a component of its batteries, with senior director Paul Pyers saying that the brand does intend to further scrutinise how its cobalt is obtained.
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