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Steve Jobs on conflict minerals

Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs was asked about his company’s use of conflict minerals. Jobs responded to Derick Rhodes of Wired right away.

Here’s their June 2010 email exchange:

*     *     *

Hi Steve,

I’d planned to buy a new iPhone [4] 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,


Jobs replied:

Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict [free] 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

*     *     *

When Wired published the email exchange, Project Enough (the NGO behind Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act directing the SEC to implement a conflict-minerals disclosure rule) sent Jobs an email. It said:

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?

There’s no indication that Jobs met with the people at Project Enough before his death in October last year.

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