Note: Think twice before updating your device…
–The GJEP Team
24 November 2012. Source: Friends of the Earth
LONDON (UK) / BANGKA (INDONESIA) – 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, 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 and 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.
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.
Pius Ginting, campaign manager at Friends of the Earth Indonesia – known in Indonesia as WALHI – said:
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.”
Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said:
Samsung and Apple may not have realised it, but 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 England Wales and Northern Ireland has launched a new ‘Make It Better’ campaign. 
The 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.
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.”
Key findings from the new report ‘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.
- In 2011 Samsung sold around 95 million smartphones and Apple around 93 millions
- 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.
 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
 The 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