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Apple removes 12 suppliers over 'conflict minerals' failures

Apple's audit aims to find out which suppliers are mining what are called "conflict minerals."

Apple has reported that in 2021, it ceased working with 12 smelters and refiners because of concerns about them mining in armed conflict areas.

As it reported in 2020, and also in 2019, Apple has informed the SEC that it has conducted a "conflict minerals audit." The company states that all of its existing smelters and refiners took part in the audit, and that 12 who did not, were dropped from the supply chain.

The audit was an independent 3TG (tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold) one. Apple only singles out the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for specific mention, while saying that it aims to use mining "responsibly" worldwide.

"As of December 31, 2021 - for the seventh straight year - 100 percent of the identified smelters and refiners in our supply chain for all applicable Apple products manufactured during calendar year 2021 participated in an independent third party conflict minerals audit for 3TG," says Apple's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct..., which includes Apple's Supplier Responsibility Standard on the Responsible Sourcing of Materials," says Apple, "...requires suppliers, smelters, refiners, and recyclers in our supply chain to identify and assess a broad range of risks beyond conflict, including social, environmental, and human rights risks."

As part of this, all such suppliers are required "to participate in 3TG traceability and third party audit programs."

"Since 2009, Apple has directed the removal of 163 3TG smelters and refiners from its supply chain (a total of 9 tantalum, 50 tin, 19 tungsten, and 85 gold smelters and refiners)," continues the filing. "In 2021, we removed 12 smelters and refiners from our supply chain, including those that were not willing to participate in or complete a third party audit, or that did not otherwise meet our requirements for the responsible sourcing of minerals."

Apple is careful not to claim 100% certainty in its attempts to safeguard against the use of minerals mined in conflict areas, or where profits from the mining fund fighting.

"Of the 253 smelters and refiners of 3TG determined to be in our supply chain as of December 31, 2021," says Apple, "we found no reasonable basis for concluding that any such smelter or refiner sourced 3TG that directly or indirectly financed or benefited armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country."