Smartphones destroy forests and coral reefs

Spoil heaps and holes full of water with tropical forest in the background

© Ulet

Research by Friends of the Earth has found that smartphones sold by Samsung and Apple almost certainly contain tin from Indonesia where mining is devastating forests and farmland, coral reefs and many communities.

Tin is used for solder in phones, computers, and all other electronic gadgets. Around a third of the world's tin comes from Bangka and neighbouring island Belitung.

Our research shows that Samsung and Apple phones almost certainly use components with solder made from tin mined on Bangka island in Indonesia. They companies may not have known this or about the devastating effect of mining on the island.

Our report reveals that:

  • In 2011 an average of one miner a week died in an accident on Banka.
  • Silt from tin mining is killing seagrass eaten by turtles, and coral reefs.
  • Tin mining is driving away fish and ruining fishermen's livelihoods
  • Farmers are struggling to grow crops because of the pollution.
  • Forests are being cut down to make way for tin mining.

Samsung and Apple will neither confirm nor deny that they use tin from Bangka in their products.

Samsung sold around 95 million smartphones in 2011, and Apple sold around 93 million. Analysts say there are likely to be more than 2 billion smartphones in use within the next 3 years.

Experts say that innovative design and better reuse of old phones could cut demand for tin.

Friends of the Earth want Samsung and Apple to say if their phones contain tin that's from mines that destroy forests and coral reefs, and wreck the lives of communities in Indonesia.

Take action

Please ask Samsung and Apple to back new business rules making all companies to come clean about how they operate.