Newsweek published an article “Where Apple gets the tantalum for your iPhone” on the 4th February 2015 which made various assertions and criticisms of both the Conflict Free Smelter Programme (CFSP), and the ITRI Tin Supply Chain Initiative (ITSCI) Programme. The author did not contact ITRI for comment on this article and our response is detailed here.
In summary, Newsweek a) irresponsibly implies the entire country of DRC and the region are impacted by conflict, sensationalising and exaggerating the extent of insecurity, b) declares, based on no real evidence, and contrary to reality, that there is no, or insufficient paperwork to track minerals, c) ignores the efforts of ITSCI field teams who constantly report on production changes and security issues, d) quotes barely understandable and confused mineral tonnage figures in an attempt to support the implication of smuggling conflict mineral from the DRC into Rwanda, and e) makes a number of other very basic errors which indicate very poor research and understanding of the subject.
In reality, the quantity of conflict-free and traceable minerals from both the DRC and Rwanda is on a clearly increasing trend offering new opportunity to miners and the economy of the region. ITRI member companies have driven due diligence on the ground in central Africa through the ITSCI Programme, and have made the extensive efforts that are required to be found compliant by the CFS audit which has also made significant improvements over the years to its own verification mechanisms. The combination of the two programmes has had a significant and demonstrated effect to improve the circumstances for miners in central Africa, while at the same time allowing them to continue to access the international market and benefit from the value of their resources. We are sure further improvements will continue in the future.