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Smartphone materials devastating Indonesian island people, forests, and corals

by Denis Burke — last modified Nov 23, 2012 05:50 PM

Leading brand smartphones almost certainly contain tin from an island in Indonesia where tin mining is destroying forests and farmland, choking coral reefs and devastating many communities.

Ulet Ifansasti/Friends of the Earth

Leading brand smartphones almost certainly contain tin from an island in Indonesia where tin mining is destroying forests and farmland, choking coral reefs and devastating many communities, according to a new Friends of the Earth investigation released today: ‘Mining for Smartphones: the True Cost of Tin’ 

 

The research by Friends of the Earth in the UK and Indonesia shows that Samsung and Apple deal with companies that use tin mined on Bangka island. It’s almost certain that this tin ends up in their products although the companies may not have known this or the devastating effect of mining on the island.

“Tin mining has damaged more than 65 percent of Bangka's forest areas and more than seventy percent of Bangka's coral reefs. Fifteen rivers are now contaminated by tin mining waste and access to clean water has become a problem for more than half of Bangka's population.  And mining tin on Bangka is very dangerous: since the beginning of this year, more than sixty miners died, most of them buried in tin mines or trapped underwater.” said Pius Ginting, campaign manager at Friends of the Earth Indonesia - known in Indonesia as Walhi.

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 England Wales and Northern Ireland has launched a new 'Make It Better' campaign

The campaign calls 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.

Paul de Clerck, economic justice programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said : “Samsung and Apple refuse to tell us where their tin comes from. We are asking the European Union to urgently come up with regulations  forcing companies to disclose the resources  they use and the environmental and human rights impacts associated with them.”

Watch the trailer for Mining For Smartphonesa new three-part documentary series produced by Friends of the Earth. The films highlight the devastating impact of tin mining on the paradise islands of Bangka in Indonesia.

 




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. 

  • A third of the world’s tin is from Bangka and neighbouring island Belitung.

 

Image: Ulet Ifansasti/Friends of the Earth

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