Jobs: 'No way to be sure' iPhone minerals are conflict-free

An email from Steve Jobs indicates that although Apple requires its suppliers to certify that they use conflict-free minerals there is "no way" for the company to be certain.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor

Apple customer Derick Rhodes was shocked after reading in the New York Times about the conflict raging in the Congo which supplies many of the minerals that end up in gadgets like mobile phones, computers and game consoles.

The minerals have been dubbed "conflict minerals" in a nod to the conflict diamonds -- according to Wikipedia, those mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army's war efforts, or a warlord's activity, usually in Africa.

Since Rhodes was in the market to purchase an iPhone, he fired off an email to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking about the source of the minerals used in the iPhone:

Hi Steve,

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, Derick

Jobs responded:

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

Wired verified the authenticity of the email response and suggested that Jobs' use of "conflict few" was a typo for "conflict free" which they attributed to the email coming from his iPhone.

Tip: Wired, Photo: Mark Craemer

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