An alarming investigation by Amnesty International and partners have implicated some big tech conglomerates and car manufacturers; alleging them to have consorted with cobalt supply chains that are abusing children’s rights by making them mine for the element.
This report claims that kids aged seven to 17 have been made workers for a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) based arm of Huayou Cobalt – Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM). Evidence implies that CDM is buying this precious element used to make batteries from traders that purchase their stock from areas infamous for child labour.
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The subsidiary has been processing cobalt ore and selling it to suppliers from China and South Korea, that use this mineral in lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones and electric cars. In an attempt to get a response, the NGO went through the customer list of 16 conglomerates based on public data.
Most deny knowledge of any such incidents going on but for Apple and Microsoft, they openly acknowledged that they were reevaluating their suppliers. at the same time, Amnesty mentions that none of the 16 companies provided enough information to successfully retrace the origins of the cobalt supply.
Interviews with 87 workers (including children aged 9 to 17) helped exposed the behind-the-scenes of how our lithium-ion cells are made
. These individuals spend nearly 12 hours in artisanal cobalt mines in the DRC and have been documented in photographs and video recordings. The documentation shows that the kids that are abused in this process essentially work above ground, collecting and cleaning rocks from these sites and nearby waterways.
They face abhorrent conditions having to carry well above their weight, constantly abused physically and breathe in all the hazardous gas and chemicals associated with these sites that abandon safety guidelines and don’t provide protective gear. Facing the surroundings of the site, often they become ill and develop lung diseases that eventually lead to death in some cases.
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Making up at least 50% of the world’s cobalt supply, the DRC’s industry was previously a nation-owned corporation but that fell after the collapse of the Congolese economy in the 1990s. Now the government relies on miners specialising in the art to dig up cobalt that’s too risky for industrial mining.
It takes two to clap in this situation and no matter the secrecy of this occurrences, we hope all the companies highlighted in this report does everything they can to ensure that this epidemic stops.
Full report available here.