Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Volkswagen and others linked to child labor camps (cobalt mines)


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Amnesty International has exposed that child (as young as 7) labor is behind smartphone and electric car batteries in the Democratic Republic of Congo cobalt mines.  50% of the world's cobalt is mined in the DRC where Huayou Cobalt gets more than 40% of its cobalt.  Huayou Cobalt then supplies the cobalt to three battery component manufactures (Ningbo Shanshan, Tianjin Bamo and L&F Materials)...which are then used by various global companies.  Amnesty International claims that as many as 40,000 children work in the cobalt mines of the DRC working up to 12 hours a day, earning between $1 and $2 in the process.

 

Link to the article.  Snippets from the article.

 

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The report documents how traders buy cobalt from areas where child labour is rife and sell it to Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd (Huayou Cobalt).

 

Amnesty International’s investigation uses investor documents to show how Huayou Cobalt and its subsidiary CDM process the cobalt before selling it to three battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea. In turn, they sell to battery makers who claim to supply technology and car companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Daimler and Volkswagen.

 

The DRC produces at least 50% of the world’s cobalt. One of the largest mineral processors in the country is Huayou Cobalt subsidiary CDM. Huayou Cobalt gets more than 40% of its cobalt from DRC.

 

Miners working in areas from which CDM buys cobalt face the risk of long-term health damage and a high risk of fatal accidents. At least 80 artisanal miners died underground in southern DRC between September 2014 and December 2015 alone. The true figure is unknown as many accidents go unrecorded and bodies are left buried in the rubble.

 

Amnesty International researchers also found that the vast majority of miners spend long hours every day working with cobalt without the most basic of protective equipment, such as gloves, work clothes or facemasks to protect them from lung or skin disease.

 

Children told Amnesty International they worked for up to 12 hours a day in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between one and two dollars a day. In 2014 approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across southern DRC, many of them mining cobalt, according to UNICEF.

 

Amnesty International and Afrewatch researchers spoke to 87 current and former cobalt miners, 17 of them children, from five mine sites in southern DRC in April and May 2015. They also interviewed 18 cobalt traders and followed vehicles of miners and traders as they carried cobalt ore from mines to markets where larger companies buy the ore. The largest of them is Huayou Cobalt’s Congolese subsidiary CDM.

 

Huayou Cobalt supplies cobalt to three lithium-ion battery component manufacturers Ningbo Shanshan and Tianjin Bamo from China and L&F Materials from South Korea. These three battery component manufacturers bought more than US$90 million worth of cobalt from Huayou Cobalt in 2013.

 

Amnesty International then contacted 16 multinational consumer brands listed as direct or indirect customers of the three battery component manufacturers. None said they had been in touch with Huayou Cobalt or traced where the cobalt in their products had come from prior to Amnesty International’s contact.

 

The report shows that companies along the cobalt supply chain are failing to address human rights risks arising in their supply chain.

 

Today there is no regulation of the global cobalt market. Cobalt does not fall under existing “conflict minerals” rules in the USA, which cover gold, coltan/tantalum, tin and tungsten mined in DRC.

 

The organizations are also calling on China to require Chinese extractive companies operating overseas to investigate their supply chains and address human rights abuses in their operations. The organizations say Huayou Cobalt should confirm who is involved in mining and trading its cobalt (and where) and make sure it is not buying cobalt mined by child labour or in dangerous conditions.

 

“Companies must not simply discontinue a trading relationship with a supplier or embargo DRC cobalt once human rights risks have been identified in the supply chain. They must take remedial action on the harm suffered by people whose human rights were abused,” said Mark Dummett.

 

Link to the actual report.  According to the report it stated that...

 

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Only Apple and Microsoft said that they had taken any sort of proactive steps to address human rights issues in the artisanal mines in southern DRC. In Apple’s case, this is at a very early stage, with the company “currently evaluating dozens of different materials, including cobalt, in order to identify labour and environmental risks as well as opportunities for Apple to bring about effective, scalable and sustainable change.” Microsoft said it was already supporting an organisation that was tackling human rights abuses, including child labour, in artisanal mines in southern DRC. As for tracing the mineral through its supply chain to the smelter, Microsoft stated that in practice, “tracing metals such as cobalt up through multiple layers of our supply chain is extremely complex.” Microsoft wrote that creating such a tracing mechanism would require “a large degree of vertical and cross-industry collaboration.” Yet, no further details were provided on actual attempts made by the company to trace this chain in practice. Compared to the supply chain due diligence that many companies have started to develop in relation to 3T and gold, Amnesty International’s research has shown that cobalt is no more difficult. In fact, research carried out in this report suggests that the trade in cobalt is more concentrated since so much of it is sourced from the DRC.

 

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