As some of the world’s largest tech firms and hardware manufacturers such as HP, Microsoft, Lenovo and Apple failed child labor checks for their products, your iPhone may contain cobalt mined by an African child.
The worrisome report was released by a human rights advocacy group called Amnesty International on Jan. 19.
The group explained that cobalt, which is extracted from central Africa, is commonly used to produce batteries for electronic devices including smartphones, tablets and notebooks. But in African countries, parents often bring their kids in the mines to help families earn some extra cash and survive.
Yet, working in a mine is an extremely dangerous activity especially for young children. Amnesty international cited permanent lung damage among the risks that African kids face in the mines.
“The glamorous 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 man-made tunnels,”
noted Amnesty International’s Mark Dummett.
Dummet explained that child labor and other abuses in Congo are the issues kept secret by the thriving cobalt trade industry. He added that we all enjoy our gadgets, but few of us bother to ask how those technologies were made.
Amnesty International is currently advocating for big brands to take responsibility for the cheap child labor that makes their devices so profitable.
According to the report, cobalt is mined in a Congo province, and is next sold to an intermediary called Congo Dongfang Mining. The firm is owned entirely by a China-based mining behemoth called Huayou Cobalt.
The two companies process the ore and sell it to battery makers in China and Korea. These makers reportedly sell their products to major tech brands including Sony, Apple, Microsoft, HP, Lenovo and eleven more.
All 16 companies have been contacted by Amnesty representatives to comment on the issue. Some of them declined any link to the battery manufacturers, but none of them provided solid evidence to document the exact source of cobalt in their devices.
Emmanuel Umpula of Afrewatch , a humans rights group that was also involved in the analysis, noted that we live in a paradoxical world where the planet’s ‘richest, most innovative companies’ are not required to disclose the source of the raw materials they use to manufacture their products.
Umpula noted that people in the cobalt trade chain buy the mineral without asking any questions on how or where it was extracted.
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