Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Dell, named in US Lawsuit over Congolese Child Labor and Deaths in Cobalt Mines

DRC_Co extraction in DRC
Cobalt extraction in DRC has been linked to child labour. Photograph: Sebastian Meyer/Corbis via Getty Images

This is a first, and hopefully not the last: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Dell have all been named in a US lawsuit over Congolese child labor and death in cobalt mines. These companies all have specific policies prohibiting child labor in their supply chains, yet they turn a blind eye to the abuse happening in cobalt mines. As you all know, cobalt is one of the miracle minerals charging the entire handheld device boom observed in the past decade; it is essential to the lithium batteries which charge the smartphones in our pockets, the personal computers without which most of us cannot function, and the electric vehicles which claim to be better against pollution (and yet there is cobalt, and more, and Congo is polluted…). Enjoy excerpts from the article on CNN.

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DRC_Children digging for Co near Lake Malo
 Children digging for cobalt near Lake Malo. Photograph: Siddharth Kara

An international advocacy group has accused Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla of “knowingly benefiting from” the use of young children to mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

International Rights Advocates filed a federal class action against the five companies in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, where the group is based. The complaint claims that the firms “are knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children” to mine cobalt in extremely dangerous conditions.
The defendants have known for a “significant period of time” that Congo’s mining sector “is dependent upon children,” the complaint said, adding that cobalt mined in the region is listed as a good produced by child labor or forced labor by the US Department of Labor.
Further, the horrors of the plight of these children has been widely reported in the media,” the complaint said, citing reports about the cobalt pipeline published by the Washington Post, the Guardian and others.
DRC_Cobalt
Heterogenite (cobalt oxyhydroxide) from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo Illustration by 731: Photos: Courtesy the Arkenstone

Cobalt is a major component of lithium-ion batteries found in virtually every rechargeable electronic gadget. Two-thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from Congo.

In 2018, a CNN investigation found that child labor and corruption was still rife there. Many companies including Tesla told CNN at the time that they were unable to fully trace out their supply chains due to what they described as the complex nature of sourcing the precious metal. But the electric carmaker also said it sourced most of its cobalt from suppliers outside Congo and was “committed to only sourcing responsibly-produced materials.” Apple was one of only a few companies to reveal their suppliers to CNN. 
The new suit was filed on behalf of more than a dozen anonymous plaintiffs, who are described as “guardians of children killed in tunnel or wall collapses” while mining, or “children who were maimed in such accidents.”
[…] International Rights Advocates claims in the lawsuit that the children were exploited and hurt in mining operations linked to the mining companies Glencore (GLCNF), Umicore and Huayou Cobalt, which the group said supply to either some or all of the defendants. 
[…] International Rights Advocates is seeking damages for the alleged victims. The group said in its complaint that it is requesting that the court order Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla to start a fund to help the plaintiffs receive medical care.

6 thoughts on “Apple, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Dell, named in US Lawsuit over Congolese Child Labor and Deaths in Cobalt Mines

  1. I heard about those cobalt mines about a year or so ago when a clip from CBS of all companies talked about them with footage from the DRC. That country is the most mineral-rich place on the planet and it sickens me how the Congolese are exploited. After finding out about part of my heritage connecting to that region of Africa, this hurts even more for me. I really hope the DRC and that advocacy group wins this lawsuit. If that country got even most of the money from their minerals and taxation from them, the population would consist of multi-millionaires and billionaires. This is unbelievable, but I’m sadly not surprised how exploitative these companies are. Nzakomba abatela Republíki ya Kongó Demokratíki!

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      1. Sure thing. That’s certainly a geological scandal with all the natural resources in that country. This is the same issue Petite Noir talks about in the song “Blowing Up the Congo”. I do wish the DRC would have justice and peace.

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  2. Joseph Phillip

    This may not be the forum for what I am concerned about, but I have to use ally avenues to get answers, The African country of Mali. It probably was colonized by the French. I observed that French troops are stationed there. Did Mali invite them or is it in forced agreements signed by Mali. Could Mali refuse to have French troops on its territory? France come better use its troops to counterfeit the “Yellow Vest” protest in France,

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    1. Joseph: Yes France’s troops are stationed in Mali to pillage its resources. Just this year, it was found that some of the French army trucks leaving Mali were actually loaded with gold from Mali: so the French soldiers are more like mercenaries. The French puppet president IBK has authorized the French to come in, however that is not the will of the people of Mali. The people of Mali could refuse the French troops on their territory, however they are governed by puppets who have signed all sorts of agreements which will not make it possible to say ‘NO’ to foreign influences without a total uprising.
      Yes… France could use its troops to deal with its ‘yellow vest’ problem, but France will then become a 3rd world country.
      Please read “The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa” on this blog, and all articles related to the FCFA.

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