Apple to End Its Reliance on Mining

Steve Fiscor

During April, Tim Cook the CEO of Apple, the 8th largest publicly held company, pledged to end its reliance on mining and make all its products only from renewable or recycled sources. It was the Thursday before Earth Day and who would expect less from a company with such a strong environmental sustainability track record. In its Environmental Responsibility Report, the technology leader outlined its accomplishments and some of its goals. Apple has been tracking and reducing its carbon footprint for years and in 2016 it reported that 96% of the electricity that the company consumed globally came from renewable sources.

The slogan for the report is: “To ask less of the planet, we’re asking more of ourselves.” Two of the mining-related questions it asks are: Can we get 100% of our supply chain to move to 100% renewable energy? Can we one day stop mining the Earth altogether? The first question can be addressed by the engineering cliché that nothing is impossible, some projects just cost more than others. That expression can’t be applied to the second question, which has probably been asked rhetorically, but nonetheless it has been asked. Stop mining the Earth simply does not compute. Apple, however, might be able to one day make all of its products from recycled or renewable sources, but the rest of the world cannot.

Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives for Apple was recently quoted by CNBC as saying, “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it. We’re also challenging ourselves to one day end our reliance on mining altogether.” Readers might recall Jackson; she was head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the first term of the Obama Administration. While Jackson might be best remembered for how she handled the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. coal industry holds a special place in their hearts for her as the champion of Obama’s anti-coal agenda.

Even though Apple has chosen a greener path, moving away from mining won’t be easy. Apple has already taken some major steps and eliminated or found different sources for its metals. They have eliminated lead, mercury, beryllium and arsenic completely. It has melted down the aluminum enclosures on the iPhone 6 to make Mac mini computers to use in its factories and the company is moving to recycled tin solder. The iPhone 7 enclosure uses 27% less aluminum than the iPhone 6. Aluminum production emits a lot of greenhouse gases, unless it’s the green aluminum from Russia. Another story for another day.

Like any other manufacturer, Apple relies heavily on many suppliers for the different components its devices require and it said that its seven major suppliers have now pledged to move to renewable energy by the end of next year. And, they will likely follow their lead when it comes to its other initiatives.

What is the mining business to do when one of the most popular companies ever says it’s going to end its reliance on mining? Let’s not kid ourselves. Apple’s renewable pledge is good for the environment, but it’s also good for its image. Eco-friendly consumers and millennials can do their part to save the Earth by buying Apple products. This is a subject with which the modern mining business will have to contend if they want any respect from tech giants and a misinformed general public.

Steve Fiscor, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, E&MJ

As featured in Womp 2017 Vol 05 -