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Apple ditches five mineral suppliers over failure to pass human rights audits

The iPhone maker says its "deeply committed" to upholding human rights.

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Apple removed five mineral suppliers. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple removed five smelters and refiners from is supply chain for failing to pass or not being willing to participate in human rights audits, according to its 2018 Conflict Minerals Report filed on Friday.

In 2018, the iPhone maker identified eight potential incidents "involving the police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and/or the DRC army in connection with a variety of alleged illicit activities," the report said. Three incidents have closed while five remain open with investigations in progress, though details weren't provided in the report.

"Apple is deeply committed to upholding human rights across its global network of suppliers," the company wrote in the report. "Through its strict supplier standards, Apple commits to use minerals in its products that do not directly or indirectly finance armed conflict or benefit armed groups."

More than 250 smelters and refiners in Apple's supply chain passed the company's auditing process in 2018.

This isn't Apple's first time letting go of suppliers. The company in 2017 removed 10 smelters and refiners for the same reasons, according to its 2017 Conflict Minerals Report. In January 2018, China Labour Watch allegedly discovered an Apple supplier was paying workers low wages and letting them work long hours in an unsafe environment. Apple sent auditors to verify the claims following the report.

First published on Feb. 15, 10:02 a.m. PT.

Updates, 1:31 p.m. PT: Adds more background information. 

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