STORY: International lawyers representing Democratic Republic of Congo's government are urging Apple to answer questions about its supply chain in the country.

That's after they said they'd received new evidence from whistleblowers.

It, they said, had deepened concerns the U.S. tech giant could be sourcing minerals from conflict areas in Congo's east.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Congo has been ravaged by violence since the 1990s, particularly in the east.

Law firm Amsterdam & Partners has been investigating allegations that minerals mined in Congo by several companies and armed groups are being smuggled out through Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

One of its lawyers said people who worked on Apple's supply chain verification in Congo had come forward to say that their contracts were terminated after they flagged concerns that "blood minerals" were in Apple's supply chain.

Congo's lawyers notified Apple CEO Tim Cook about a series of supply chain concerns on April 22 and wrote to Apple subsidiaries in France.

They demanded answers within three weeks.

But on Wednesday (May 22) Amsterdam & Partners said Apple had "neither answered nor even acknowledged receipt of the questions."

Apple has said in the past that it does not directly buy, procure or source primary minerals, and it has been auditing its suppliers for several years and publishing its findings.

In a report last year, it said 100% of identified smelters and refiners in the supply chain for all applicable Apple products manufactured in 2023 had participated in an independent third-party conflict minerals audit for tin, tantalum, and tungsten, known as the 3T minerals, and gold.

Since Congo's lawyers issued their letter in April, clashes have intensified in eastern Congo.

Rebels from the M23 group have seized control of Rubaya, a key mining town for coltan, which is used in smartphones and other appliances.

Congo and the United Nations have said Rwanda is backing M23, which Rwanda has denied.