24 November 2012
Smartphones sold by best-selling brands almost certainly contain tin from a paradise island in Indonesia where tin mining is destroying forests and farmland, choking coral reefs and devastating many communities, a new Friends of the Earth investigation reveals today.
The environment charity’s research shows that Samsung and Apple deal with companies that use tin mined on Bangka island and it’s almost certain that this tin ends up in their products, although the companies may not have known this or about the devastating effect of mining on the island.
When asked by Friends of the Earth whether they used tin from Bangka, they neither confirmed nor denied this. Tin is used as solder in all phones and electronic gadgets.
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“While Samsung and Apple’s battle to lead the smartphone market is played out in courts and high streets around the world, the rival brands could have more in common than they’d like to think.
“Though they may not have realised it, our research shows that mining tin to make both companies’ smartphones may come at a terrible cost to people and the environment.”
To prevent problems elsewhere and help ensure that companies make products in a way that’s within the planet’s safe limits, Friends of the Earth’s new Make It Better campaign is calling on Samsung and Apple customers and others to ask the smartphone makers to back new rules for all companies to come clean about their supply chains.
Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins continued:
“Millions of us love our phones – we don’t need to know complex details about how they’re made but we do want to be sure that people or the planet aren’t hurt in the process.
“Friends of the Earth’s new Make It Better campaign is asking smartphone makers to tell us if their phones contain tin that’s linked to the destruction of precious forests and coral reefs and wrecking the lives of communities in Indonesia.”
“And to prevent problems elsewhere, we want them to back new rules for all companies to come clean about how they do business – so we can love our favourite products, and love the way they’re made.”
To address the problems in Bangka, the environment charity is also calling for the smartphone giants to bring together affected parties to agree and implement a plan to halt environmental and human problems caused by tin mining.
Key findings from ‘Mining for Smartphones: the True Cost of Tin’:
Devastation on Bangka island:
* Dangerous and unregulated tin mining on Bangka island killed and injuring miners – police figures show that in 2011 an average of one miner a week died in an accident.
* Silt from tin mining dredgers and boats is clouding the formerly clear sea around Bangka, killing the seagrass eaten by turtles and 60-70% of the island’s coral reefs, driving away fish and ruining fishermen’s livelihoods.
* Farmers struggle to grow crops in soil turned acidic by the destruction of forests for tin mining, while abandoned craters scar large parts of Bangka island.
* Doctors suspect a possible link between Bangka’s high number of malaria cases and the hundreds of abandoned tin mine craters filled with stagnant water that are a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitos.
* Almost half of all mined tin is turned into solder for the electronics industry and around a third of the world’s tin is from Bangka and neighbouring island Belitung.
Smartphones impact on the world:
* There are now more than 1 billion smartphones in use around the world, according to consulting firm Strategy Analytics, with growing demand likely to push this beyond 2 billion within the next three years.
* Samsung sold around 95 million smartphones in 2011 – producing these used enough water to fill the Royal Albert Hall 500 times and an area of land over twice the size of Birmingham.
* Apple sold around 93 million smartphones in 2011 – producing these used enough water to fill Wembley Stadium more than 80 times and an area of land more than three times the size of Glasgow.
* There are many things companies could do to reduce the impact of phones and make them better for customers – from introducing universal chargers or batteries that can charge in seconds to designing them to be much easier to take apart and repair. Experts say that through innovative design and better reuse of old phones phone companies could cut demand for tin and other raw materials.
Notes to editors
1. High-res professional photos of the devastation caused by tin mining on Bangka island can be downloaded for free editorial use here: http://photolibrary.foe.co.uk/?c=126&k=11d5cf9866
2. Case studies of people affected by mining in Bangka and the full investigation into Samsung and Apple’s supply chains are available in Friends of the Earth’s new report ‘Mining for Smartphones: the True Cost of Tin’: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/tin_mining.pdf
3. Friends of the Earth’s new Make It Better campaign is asking leading smartphone makers to say whether their phones contain tin linked to the destruction of coral reefs and forests in Indonesia’s Bangka islands – and to back new rules for all companies to come clean about their supply chains at www.foe.co.uk/makeitbetter. To help end problems in the supply chain, we’re calling for legislation requiring large companies operating in Europe to report on their full human and environmental impacts – including indirect impacts through suppliers – such as accidents, pollution incidents, greenhouse gas emissions and how much of the world’s water, land and raw materials they use. The Make It Better campaign will also celebrate positive steps companies are taking towards more planet-friendly production and how innovative design can reduce the environmental impact of our favourite items.
If you’re a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.
Published by Friends of the Earth Limited