Apple could face problems with new Congo law

A new US law could cause some headaches for Apple and other hardware makers who will have to be absolutely certain that their products don’t contain minerals from rebel-controlled mines in Congo.

The move is aimed at starving the rebels of funds and encouraging them to lay down their arms.

Tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold are all important parts of the technology industry. The US law doesn’t ban the minerals trade with the area but it forces companies to report annually whether their products contain any of the four “conflict minerals” from Congo.

If companies find that they use minerals from any of the ten countries, they need to have an audit done to determine “with the greatest possible specificity” which mine they’re from. There are legitmate mines in the Congo and the idea is to encourage companies only to buy from them.

Outfits which can prove their materials do not come from the nightmare mines of the Congo can market their goods as conflict free.

Two years ago, Intel started to alert its tantalum smelters, who turn the ore into the metal, that they will have to start certifying that their ores don’t come from “conflict mines”. Intel’s Chuck Mulloy said that the process will add some minor costs to the supply chain.

Apple has a policy of not using conflict metals but according to the Enough Project the minerals Apple uses are smuggled to the coast and shipped to plants in China, India or a number of other countries. There, they are combined with other metals, making them harder, though not impossible, to trace.

Enough Communications Director Jonathan Hutson said that Apple was “one of the worst” suppliers.