Campaign against tin mining in Bangka island targets Microsoft – by Sajid Shaikh (The Guardian – May 30, 2014)

Company singled out for direct action for ignoring tin mining’s enviromental impact on Indonesian island

A campaign against tin mining in Bangka and Belitung islands of Indonesia is targeting tech giant Microsoft. The islands, off the coast of Sumatra, are being stripped off their forests and marine wealth and dug up for tin, used widely in the electronics and IT industry by major brands making mobile phones, tablets, laptops, computers and other gadgets.

Friends of Earth Netherlands, an environmental group fighting for sustainable sourcing of tin, said they are targeting Microsoft for “refusing to take steps to end irresponsible mining practices on Bangka and Belitung islands.” Asus, HTC and Huawei are other brands named by the group using tin sourced unethically.

“Big brands such as Apple, Philips and LG openly support projects to produce tin in a better way. It is unacceptable that other brands still refuse to follow this lead and take responsibility. They have been made aware Bangka-Belitung islands are being destroyed and miners are dying every week. All brands use tin from Bangka-Belitung since a third of global tin production comes from these Indonesian islands,” said FoE campaigner Evert Hassink.

The group has launched an online petition against Microsoft. “We ask people to support our petition. In the Netherlands we will be collecting signatures on the streets and at festivals. We will take direct action against Microsoft,” Hassink said.

On Thursday, FoE targeted Microsoft’s Amsterdam office, confronting employees over the difference between their working conditions and those of tin miners in Indonesia.

Microsoft, however, said it’s committed to responsible production of its hardware and packaging, including the raw materials used in making them. Brian Tobey, corporate vice president for manufacturing, supply chain and information services at Microsoft, said in a statement to the Guardian: “We have reecently formalised our values and approach to responsible sourcing through Microsoft’s responsible sourcing of raw materials policy, to extend our positive influence to the furthest reaches of our upstream supply chain.”

Tobey said Microsoft is in touch with FoE to share the approach. “On 2 June we will publish a Conflict Minerals report which will disclose the number of tin smelters and refineries in our upstream supply chain, including those in Indonesia. The report will include maps showing the locations of all confirmed mines and smelters or refiners identified in our raw materials supply chain.”

Nokia, which is now part of Microsoft, is already a signatory to the Tin Working Group, a public-private partnership that includes campaign groups like FoE, Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, businesses and Indonesian government, working together to improve the sustainability of tin production in Indonesia.

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