In a report released today, the 19th of January 2016, Amnesty International points us to the glaring degree of child labor employed in mining the raw materials used in most tech manufacture. Apple, Samsung, Sony and a number of other major electronic brands have apparently failed in their duty to appropriately check that the cobalt used in the manufacture of their products are not being mined by child laborers.
The Amnesty International report which details the hazardous conditions under which miners (which unfortunately include thousands of children and adults) mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is named; This is what we die for: Human right abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt. It also explores how cobalt is used to power mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices.
Especially important in this report is the potential fatal health effects of prolonged exposure to cobalt and the almost guaranteed high level of accidents that the miners who dig out rocks from deep underground tunnels are exposed to. This exposure is not tackled even with the most basic of protective equipment, a confusing fact if indeed the mines are part of the supply chain to this major electronic brands that reel in millions of dollars in income.
Amnesty International which teamed up with African Resources Watch (Afrewatch) for this investigation also informs that these young children and adults are paid a dollar a day, work in life-threatening conditions and are exposed to violence, extortion and intimidation. Over half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, so it’s not a far reach to suggest and go about verifying the involvement of these mines in the supply chain of the aforementioned companies.
Out of the 16 companies mentioned in the Amnesty International report to be among those sourcing from battery manufacturers using processed cobalt from Huayou Cobalt, two multinational companies denied the claims, five said they had no links with Huayou Cobalt and the remaining accepted or are investigating the claims.
Both Amnesty International and Afrewatch expressed their disappointment that these companies, some of which are the biggest in the world could still claim to be unable to trace the source of these minerals, knowing the child labor situation in the DRC. They intend to use the findings to call on multinational companies to conduct investigations on their supply chain for the lithium-ion batteries, where they should check for labor abuses and also to cause them to be more transparent about their suppliers.