Apple, Samsung and Sony accused of using cobalt mined by children

Do you know where the minerals manufacturers use in the construction of your gadgets come from? The answer to this question, provided in a report by Amnesty International, may give you pause for thought.

The human rights organisation has fingered major electronic brands like Apple, Samsung and Sony for using cobalt mined by child labourers.

Amnesty International has also accused these tech giants of not doing enough to ensure that minerals that are used in their products do not stem from illegal labour, specifically from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“The glamourous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” said Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

The Amnesty International report, entitled ‘This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt’, set out to trace the origin and sale of cobalt from mines where children as young as seven and work alongside adults in perilous conditions.

The cobalt is used in lithium-ion batteries, which powers almost all mobile devices.

“Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products,” he said.

Africa Resources Watch Executive Director Emmanuel Umpula explained that it is a bit of a paradox when investigating the market and where the minerals come from.

“It is a major paradox of the digital era that some of the world’s richest, most innovative companies are able to market incredibly sophisticated devices without being required to show where they source raw materials for their components,” he said.

Dummett squarely pegs the blame at the international companies, whose profits reach into the billions per year.

“Many of these multinationals say they have a zero tolerance policy for child labour. But this promise is not worth the paper it is written when the companies are not investigating their suppliers.”

“Without laws that require companies to check and publicly disclose information about where they source minerals and their suppliers, companies can continue to benefit from human rights abuses. Governments must put an end to this lack of transparency, which allows companies to profit from misery,” he said.

Interestingly, Amnesty International’s report follows closely on the heels of a pledge by Intel that from the second quarter of 2016 the company wouldn’t be using materials, minerals and elements that stem from conflict zones. Intel, incidentally, pledged not to use materials from the DRC back 2009.

“Our collective efforts show that we can influence entirely new and different ways of doing business that also improve the human experience,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement issued after the CES 2016 keynote.

You can read the damning report in full on Amnesty International’s website.

[Source – Amnesty International, image – Josh Rushing]


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