The flurry of attention to Congo’s conflict minerals problem today – a column in The New York Times, a viral video spoof on the “I’m a Mac…” ad, a frontpage piece on the Huffington Post – worked its way up to the tiptop echelon of the tech world today – to Steve Jobs.
WIRED’s Gadget Lab blog just published a post highlighting the first-ever direct response from the Apple founder about conflict minerals, a problem that plagues every electronics company and thus links consumers to the war in Congo – if unwittingly.
Here’s the exchange between Apple loyalist Derick Rhodes and Jobs, as reported by WIRED:
I’d planned to buy a new iPhone tomorrow – my first upgrade since buying the very first version on the first day of its release – but I’m hesitant without knowing Apple’s position on sourcing the minerals in its products.
Are you currently making any effort to source conflict-free minerals? In particular, I’m concerned that Apple is getting tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold from Eastern Congo through its suppliers.
Looking forward to your response,
Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few [sic] materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.
Sent from my iPhone
It’s a very welcome development that Jobs decided to personally weigh in on this issue and respond to a concerned consumer, because ultimately it will be decisions by him and other industry leaders that will give customers the choice to go conflict free. But because we have a couple of questions with his argument, Enough is replying in kind. Here’s an email we just sent to him:
Thanks, Steve. You have always blazed a path where others thought it impossible.
Tracing minerals isn’t easy, but it can be done. The chokepoint is at the smelter, where the raw mineral ores are processed into metals. Tin and tantalum firms that supply electronics companies have started tracing programs in the past six months, and certain electronics companies are beginning to audit this process.
But to guarantee to consumers that iPads, iPods and iPhones are verifiably conflict-free, we need more resources and commitment from industry leaders like you. We have a roadmap to accomplish this, through tracing, auditing, and certification. Would you like to meet and talk further?
Photo: Steve Jobs introduces the new iPhone (AP)