While “conflict diamonds” are known throughout much of the developed world, the idea of “conflict minerals” has barely breached consumer’s consciousness. However, that’s beginning to change. Nicholas Kristof over at the New York Times, who writes articles mainly on African development (with varying degrees of success), popped his head in on “conflict minerals” with an article on June 26. Aside from the basic “this causes that” simplification of the issue presented in the article, the truth stands that some tantalum comes from Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and some of that tantalum ends up in phones and some of the money from those purchase may indirectly fund rebel groups in the region.
Almost all phone/computer/semiconductor manufacturers are aware of this (or should be), however when presented with concern, each representative states, “it’s virtually impossible to determine the origin of the natural resources used in our products” or something to that extent. This has always been the case when it comes to the CEO of one of the biggest and most well known consumer tech companies, Apple. While Steve Jobs does not necessarily discount that conflict minerals are in his products, nor does he think this is not an issue, he often says it’s impossible to know (read: we can’t really do anything about it).
This came to light again due to the Kristof article mentioned because following the article a letter was sent to Jobs regarding the situation from someone concerned about the sourcing of materials in the iPhone 4. Once again, Jobs wrote:
“Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few 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
So, while the answer to this question surely needs to change, I wonder, does Steve Jobs really read and answer his own email and if so, how come he hasn’t figured out how to master the auto-correction?
More on both of these questions to come…