Samsung admits to using tin linked to child labor, deforestation; Apple mum on sourcing

April 25, 2013

Mobile device giant Samsung has admitted to using tin sourced from a controversial mining operation on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where unregulated mining kills 150 miners a year and causes substantial environmental damage, reports The Guardian and Mongabay-Indonesia.

Samsung's admission came after a campaign by Friends of the Earth, which led to nearly 16,000 customers contacting the company. In an email sent the customers and the NGO, Samsung said it is investigating the matter.

"While we do not have a direct relationship with tin suppliers from Bangka Island, we do know that some of the tin that we use for manufacturing our products does originate from this area," Samsung said. "We are also undertaking a thorough investigation of our supply chain in the region to better understand what is happening, and what part we play."

Pools of stagnant water and the cratered landscape of this PT Timah tin mine have replaced forest and farmland. © Ulet Ifansasti

Bangka and neighboring island Belitung account for about 90 percent of Indonesia's tin production. Mining on the islands involves more than half the population, but is largely unregulated, leading to a raft of ills. An investigation last year by the Guardian and Friends of the Earth found widespread use of child labor, clearing of forests, and degradation to coral reefs. Accidents kill scores of people each year.

After the investigation, Friends of the Earth called on Samsung and Apple to disclose whether they use tin from Bangka in their smartphones and tablets. To date only Samsung has admitted to sourcing Bangka tin, a point highlighted by Friends of the Earth.

"It's great Samsung has taken an industry lead by tracking its supply chains all the way to Indonesia's tin mines and committing to taking responsibility for helping tackle the devastating impact that mining tin for electronics has on people and the environment," said Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth in a statement.

"Rival Apple is already playing catch-up on the high street in terms of smartphone sales – it's time it followed Samsung's lead by coming clean about its whole supply chains too."

A worker at a tin ore mine in District Sungai Liat, Bangka island. © Ulet Ifansasti

Independent miners use suction pumps to hoover the sea bed, as they search for tin ore in the waters off Rajik village. © Ulet Ifansasti

Febri Andika, a young tin miner, searches for tin ore at a mine in Belo Laut village. © Ulet Ifansasti

Miners sift through sand looking for tin ore at a mine in Tanjung Pesona, District Sungai Liat, Bangka, Indonesia. © Ulet Ifansasti

Workers at a tin mine in Tanjung Pesona. © Ulet Ifansasti

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mongabay.com (April 25, 2013).

Samsung admits to using tin linked to child labor, deforestation; Apple mum on sourcing.