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Friday, April 01, 2011, 12:50 pm PT (03:50 pm ET)

Apple, Intel work to prevent use of conflict minerals mined in Africa

New rules related to electronic components are intended to stem the purchase of "conflict minerals" that fund wars in Central Africa, a measure supported by technology companies including Intel and Apple.

The terms of the Conflict-Free Smelter program apply to shipments of tin ore, tungsten, gold and coltan from the Congo and neighboring countries. The program was drawn up by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and Global E-Sustainability Initiative, in which both Apple and Intel play roles, according to Bloomberg.

Joining the technology companies will be the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which will also issue federal regulations designed to discourage the purchase of conflict minerals. The decision was made last July, when President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The EICC and GeSI conflict stipulations backed by Apple went into effect on Friday. The organizations viewed them as necessary as electronic devices often rely on minerals such as tin and tantalum, which are mined in Central Africa.

"The CFS program aims to identify smelters that can demonstrate through an independent third-party assessment that the raw materials they procured did not originate from sources that contribute to conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo," the EICC said.

The program now requires full traceability and due diligence on all material purchased from the Congo and surrounding areas. Smelters must be certified as conflict-free for the purchase to be compliant.

Smelters, who extract iron and copper, have reportedly stopped buying minerals from exporters in Goma, which is the center of the Congo's tin ore trade. Miners in that area are said to be unable to comply with the new rules yet.

Central Africa represents just one area of the world where electronic devices, including those made by Apple, are connected to controversial issues. For years, Apple has worked to improve working conditions on the other side of the globe in Asia as well.

In February, Apple issued its annual audit of overseas suppliers, revealing that it terminated business with a facility that employed 42 underage workers. The company also detailed how it banned the use of n-hexane gas, a poisonous chemical that some workers were exposed to last year, and also commissioned an independent review of a number of suicides at the main plant of device assembler Foxconn.

For years, Apple has also offered (Product) Red versions of iPod models, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to address the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Those funds go to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Apple still maintains a section of its site devoted to (Product) Red, and boasts that the program has generated more than $160 million for the Global fund since its introduction. Its latest-generation iPod nano, with a multi-touch display, also comes in a (Product) Red version.