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LG Electronics, Nokia Tackle Illegal Tin Mining in Indonesia

Image credit: Friends of the Earth

LG Electronics, Nokia, Sony, Blackberry and Motorola have released statements reaffirming their commitments to tackling illegal tin mining in Indonesia.

The move came after British environmental NGO Friends of the Earth released information from an investigation into the devastation caused by mining for tin on Bangka. According to the charity, tin is used as solder in all phones and electronic gadgets, and around a third of the world's mined tin comes from Bangka and neighboring island Belitung.

The Friends of the Earth investigation in Bangka found:

· Dangerous and unregulated tin mining

· Police figures show that in 2011 an average of one miner a week died in an accident

· Reports of child labor in the unofficial mines are common

· Coral and sea life threatened

· Silt from tin mining is killing coral reefs and seagrass eaten by turtles, driving away fish and ruining fishermen's livelihoods

· Farmland and forest destroyed

· Farmers struggle to grow crops in soil left acidic after the destruction of forests for tin mining.

LG Electronics said in a statement: "We can confirm that we do not directly source any products from Bangka, but our investigations have revealed that some of the tin used by our third-party suppliers may come from this region.”

The company added: “We already have a code of conduct in place which states that our suppliers must not use materials obtained through any illegal form of mining and we are reviewing our sourcing policy in light of these claims. ... LG is participating in a working group through the EICC to address concerns about the impact of Indonesian tin production, and is helping to fund a study being carried out by the IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) to better understand the situation in Bangka. We will look to take further action based on the results of this study."

Nokia said that the presence of Indonesian tin in its supply chain procedures or ultimately in its products is likely and it cannot rule out the possibility that tin mined at Bangka-Belitung may be in its supply chain. The company said it is committed to ensuring that all materials used in its products come from socially and environmentally responsible sources and is working to establish greater clarity about the situation there. Nokia also is part of the EICC-IDH Tin Working Group, which brings together a range of stakeholders to address concerns about the impact of tin production in Indonesia.

"It's great that most of the mobile industry is now being upfront with customers about the socially and environmentally damaging tin in their phones — and committing to tackle the problems together,” said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's Director of Policy and Campaigns. "To prevent problems elsewhere and help companies identify risks and inefficiencies in production, we're also calling for new laws in Europe requiring them to reveal the full human and environmental impacts of their operations."

LG and Nokia are both making significant efforts to reduce waste: Earlier this month, Nokia joined O2's "Chargers Out of the Box" campaign, making the Nokia 302 smartphone the first mass-market handset to ship with only a USB cable, encouraging customers to use existing mains chargers acquired through the purchase of existing mobile phones. And a recent assessment revealed that LG has cut GHG emissions, solid waste production and energy use across its US operations and diverted more than10 million pounds of used electronics from landfill during its first six months working in partnership with the EPA. 


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a writer, thinker and strategic communicator who revels in helping drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. He studied Political Science and History at the University of California,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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