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Rwanda Ready to Drop "Conflict Mineral" Accusations Against Apple

Rwanda has strongly denied accusations from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that Apple sources conflict minerals from a disputed area within the DRC. Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo labeled these allegations as "baseless" and suggested they are part of ongoing attempts by the DRC to shift media focus onto Rwanda by leveraging Apple's global profile. Apple has responded by reaffirming its commitment to responsible sourcing, stating it has verified the origins of minerals in its supply chain and found no evidence of financing armed groups in the DRC as of December 31, 2023.

Rwanda has dismissed claims made by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accusing Apple of sourcing conflict minerals from a contested area within the DRC.

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo refuted the claims of Apple malfeasance, calling them a "rehashing of baseless allegations and conjecture, attempting to leverage media interest in one of the world's largest companies."

The spokeswoman continued, "[t]his is just the latest stunt by the government of the DRC, who are constantly seeking to deflect attention onto Rwanda with false accusations."

Accusations and Response From Apple

The accusations were made by a law firm, which also demanded answers from Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook, regarding its supply chain within three weeks.

Apple's legal response was that "[a]lthough Apple has affirmed that it verifies the origins of minerals it uses to manufacture its products, those claims do not appear to be based on concrete, verifiable evidence."

Apple has stated that it verifies the origins of the minerals it uses, and as of December 31, 2023, found no evidence that any of the smelters or refiners in its supply chain directly or indirectly financed armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country. It publishes an annual Supplier Responsibility Report detailing its efforts to ensure responsible sourcing of minerals. The company has committed to not directly or indirectly financing armed groups through its mineral sourcing. The report outlines Apple's due diligence processes and efforts to improve transparency and traceability in its supply chain.


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Conflict Mineral Background in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) plays a crucial role in the global supply of minerals such as tantalum, copper, and cobalt, all essential for the production of various electronic devices. The region's mineral wealth, however, has fueled conflict and violence, particularly in the eastern part of the country, where armed groups vie for control over the lucrative resources. This situation is exacerbated by the illicit trade in so-called "conflict minerals," which include gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. These minerals are widely used in electronic products, making their extraction and trade highly profitable.

The complexity of the conflict in the eastern DRC is rooted in the struggle among numerous armed groups seeking to control the region's mineral resources. The term "conflict minerals" refers to those mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, a situation that has long been prevalent in the eastern DRC. International companies, including Apple, have faced scrutiny over their potential involvement in the conflict minerals trade.

To address the issue of conflict minerals, various international initiatives and organizations are working towards improving governance, transparency, and traceability in the mineral supply chain. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Group of Experts on the DRC, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region are among the key actors in these efforts.

Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has been instrumental in pushing U.S. companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals originating from the DRC or an adjoining country. This legislation aims to reduce the profits from the sale of conflict minerals and to encourage companies to source minerals responsibly, thus contributing to the resolution of the conflict in the eastern DRC.




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