DR Congo Lawyers Present New Evidence Linking Apple to Conflict Minerals

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PARIS,– International lawyers representing the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced on Wednesday that they have gathered new evidence from whistleblowers, raising concerns that Apple may be sourcing minerals from conflict zones in eastern Congo.

According to Reuters, the lawyers urged Apple to address questions about its supply chain in the country, stating that they are evaluating legal options. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Congo has endured violence since the 1990s, particularly in its eastern regions, where various armed groups, some backed by neighboring Rwanda, vie over national identity, ethnicity, and resources.

Congo’s legal representatives notified Apple CEO Tim Cook on April 22 of their concerns regarding the company’s supply chain. They also contacted Apple subsidiaries in France, demanding responses within three weeks.

Amsterdam & Partners LLP, the law firm investigating the allegations, claims minerals mined in Congo by several companies and armed groups are being smuggled through Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.

Despite the notification, the lawyers stated that four weeks later, “the tech giant has remained silent and neither answered nor even acknowledged receipt of the questions.” Robert Amsterdam, one of the lawyers, noted that the firm has since received additional evidence from whistleblowers.

“It is more urgent than ever that Apple provide real answers to the very serious questions we have raised,” Amsterdam said in a statement.

Apple has previously stated that it does not directly purchase or source primary minerals and has been auditing its suppliers for several years. In a report last year, Apple claimed that all identified smelters and refiners in its supply chain for applicable products manufactured in 2023 had participated in an independent third-party conflict minerals audit.

“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,” the Apple report stated.

Peter Sahlas, another lawyer from Amsterdam & Partners LLP, told Reuters that individuals who worked on Apple’s supply chain verification in Congo reported that their contracts were terminated after they raised concerns about “blood minerals” in Apple’s supply chain.

“We are engaging with these individuals and evaluating their evidence and will have more to say once we have completed robust verifications,” Sahlas said, without providing further details.

Since the lawyers’ letter in April, clashes have intensified in eastern Congo. Rwandan-backed M23 rebels have seized control of Rubaya, a key mining town for coltan used in smartphones and other electronic devices.