BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Amnesty International has discovered that the batteries of our smartphones contain cobalt mined by children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to a report published by the organization on Monday, very young children, even seven year-olds are laboring in cobalt mines. The cobalt is sold from small producers to Congo Dongfang Mining, a subsidiary of Huayou Cobalt, a Chinese company.
After that, the cobalt is used in manufacturing batteries which end up in devices made by Apple, Microsoft, Sony and Samsung and in electric cars made by Volkswagen. Therefore, we are using products that contain a small part of something a child has been working hard for.
When it comes to workers, not all companies know how some materials are obtained and who is working for them. For example, there was the last year’s scandal about the “This is what a feminist looks like” which I’m sure you are aware of. If not, here’s the situation briefly: many women wore working to produce this t-shirt on which the above quote was written. However, they were paid very little and they worked in very poor conditions, which was ironic given the message of the t-shirt.
Why don’t companies that have the final product and sell it don’t try to learn more about were their product comes from? In the case of the child miners, cobalt is not considered a “conflict mineral” by US standards and therefore, companies are not obliged to make public supply chain reports about mining sources. Therefore, there are no laws about this on the worldwide market.
On the other hand, we know there are laws against children being put to work and deprived of their rights. Consequently, Amnesty is asking the giant corporations to audit their supply chains and impose them some human rights regulations.
In response to the non-profit group request, the companies, including Apple, stated that they cannot find for sure the source of the cobalt in their batteries and therefore cannot trace it back to Congo Dongfang Mining or Huayou Cobalt respectively. However, they are looking into the matter, evaluating besides cobalt, other materials as well, trying to identify labor risks and see if children are indeed somehow involved into the product’s manufacture.
All in all, let’s hope that companies will manage to find the source of the cobalt and impose regulations on human rights and against child labor.
Image source: www.bing.com