Tech companies indirectly connected to blacklisted Myanmar tin mine

A tin mine is seen in Man Maw in ethnic Wa territory in northeast Myanmar October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

YANGON (Reuters) – More than 500 companies list among their suppliers Chinese-controlled firms that indirectly buy tin ore from a mine operated by an ethnic armed group in Myanmar, a Reuters examination of the supply chain found.

The Man Maw mine is controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which the United States placed under sanctions for alleged narcotics trafficking.

That potentially puts companies at risk of violating sanctions that forbid “direct or indirect” dealings with blacklisted groups. The world’s No. 1 tin producer, Yunnan Tin Co Ltd, is one of the Chinese firms that buy tin from the Man Maw mine, through intermediaries.

Here is a list of some of the companies who list Yunnan Tin among their suppliers, and their responses to Reuters’ requests for comment:

Apple: Apple said in a statement it worked with suppliers to help them meet stringent standards, “and those who are ultimately unable or unwilling to comply are removed from our supply chain”.

“While we have no evidence of illegal tin from Myanmar in our products, we’ll continue to investigate, address any issues we find and do all we can to raise standards and protect human rights,” it said.

Huawei Technologies: “Huawei has no direct contract with Yunnan Tin. They are a very small supplier to one of our contractors. We have sought Yunnan Tin’s response to the issues raised. We will consider any necessary next steps once a response has been received. We expect all suppliers and their contractors to comply with all local laws and ethics. We will take all necessary actions when these standards are unmet”.

General Electric: A GE spokesman said the company strived to use ethical sourcing in its mineral supply chain.

“We routinely examine the smelters in our global supply chain either through direct audits or those performed by groups such as the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative,” the spokesman said, adding it had “noted the concerns raised by Reuters and will address them through our internal process and with our external partners”.

Lenovo: The PC-maker said it did not have any direct relationship with Yunnan Tin or any other smelters. “All our suppliers abide by a code of conduct of working with us and are regularly audited by our own supply chain team,” the company said, adding that it would “revisit our tin suppliers and investigate the concerns flagged”.

Nokia: Nokia said that only a small amount of the tin produced globally went into the ICT industry, and that the smelters concerned were “several tiers away from Nokia”.

“Given our aforementioned lack of exposure to tin we have not seen enough evidence that Yunnan Tin would source tin from UWSA-controlled mines. We pride ourselves on our transparency – we make our smelter names public so we can be held accountable,” the company said, adding that it would “run further due diligence and then notify our suppliers and escalate the issue as needed” if further evidence is presented.

Ericsson: “We do not have any direct purchasing relationship with smelters and refiners. However, we closely follow issues related to conflict minerals, and we work together with our suppliers to improve responsible business practice in our supply chain and increase the number of smelters certified as conflict-free in accordance with the Conflict Free Smelter Programme. We encourage the evolvement of the CFSI certification scheme to cover more geographies than today and intend to become more active in this evolvement”.

Foxconn Technology: Foxconn said it “enforced stringent supplier management requirements in accordance with international and local conflict minerals legislations and has proactively communicated these requirements to our suppliers”. The company added that less than 1% of its tin was procured from Yunnan Tin, all of which was used in products for a “single, non-U.S.-based customer”.

Pegatron Corp: Pegatron said it carried out “annual due diligence on suppliers and encourage them to source from validated conflict-free supply chains… Pegatron will continue working with customers and international organizations to investigate and source minerals responsibly,” the company added.

Starbucks: Starbucks said small amounts of Yunnan Tin metal, sourced from second or third party suppliers, went into the ovens used to heat pastries in its coffee shops. The company had received no information indicating it was using minerals from Myanmar, a spokeswoman said, but was pushing suppliers for more detailed souring disclosures.

Macy’s: “We have no business relationship with Yunnan Tin or its suppliers and do not direct vendors to source from it. As noted in our Conflict Minerals Report, the disclosed processors, including Yunnan Tin, may not be part of our supply chain. Most vendors report processor information for all of their products, not just for those that they sell to us,” the company said, adding that it had “brought this matter to the attention of Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) for its further investigation”.

Target: “Target is committed to responsible business conduct. In turn, we expect our suppliers to share in our principles and uphold our standards. We take these allegations very seriously, and we are looking into this”.

Tiffany & Co: Tiffany said one of its suppliers had indirectly sourced a “very small amount of tin” from the Chinese smelter for use in silver solder for jewelry and hollowware. The company added that, as Yunnan Tin was certified as conflict-free by the CFSI, “use of this smelter by our vendors is consistent with our Conflict Minerals Policy”.

The full Reuters report is here.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee in Yangon, Jussi Rosendahl in Helsinki, Helena Soderpalm in Stockholm, JR Wu in Taipei, Paul Carsten in Beijing and Sijia Zhang in Hong Kong; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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