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Apple, Samsung linked to child labour in battery production

Tue 19 Jan 2016

Child labour cobalt mining Congo

A new report from global human rights movement Amnesty International contains claims that leading technology brands, including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung, are not keeping track of whether materials used in their batteries are mined using child labour.

The investigation, which collected testimonials from almost 90 people, focussed on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and discovered that children as young as seven were being used to mine cobalt – a key component in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries used in mobile phones.

The country produces more than half of the world’s cobalt – mining an estimated 67,735 metric tons of the material last year. The mining of the substance is dangerous and can cause long-term health risks. According to Amnesty, at least 80 miners were killed underground between September 2014 and December 2015.

One young interviewee told the organisation that he would “spend 24 hours down in the tunnels” at one time. “I arrived in the morning and would leave the following morning,” he said.

Apple did not directly answer questions regarding the purchasing of components containing cobalt but instead commented: “Underage labour is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards.” The company added that it conducts strict audits and funds homes and schools in the communities, as well as supporting workers’ wages.

In response to the findings, Samsung argued that it had a “zero tolerance policy” towards child labour, and reported that it conducts regular checks to ensure that no children are being used in the production of their equipment.

Sony also stated that it is “working with the suppliers to address issues related to human rights and labour conditions at the production sites, as well as in the procurement of minerals and other raw materials.”

Further claims suggested that automakers, Volkswagen and Daimler, had been using the same cobalt as tech companies to place in their car batteries.


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