Was Child Labor Used to Help Make Your Phone, Car Battery?

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Children as young as 7 work in African mines to unearth a metal commonly used in cellphone and car batteries, according to a new report.

Children as young as 7 work in African mines to unearth cobalt, a metal commonly used in cellphone and electric car batteries, according to a new report.

The 88-page report details what two nonprofit organizations say is a connection between this child labor and products sold by multinational tech and auto companies — such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Daimler and Volkswagen.

The report was released today by Amnesty International and African Resources Watch.

Cobalt is used in lithium-ion batteries. It is mined by workers who include thousands of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an African nation that produces at least 50 percent of the world’s cobalt supply, according to the report.

Those miners lack protective equipment, work shifts as long as 24 hours, and face potentially fatal health problems from prolonged exposure to cobalt.

Amnesty International’s investigation used investor documents to connect such cobalt to devices sold by multinational companies.

Traders buy cobalt from places like Congo and sell it to a company called Congo Dongfang Mining, which is a subsidiary of the Chinese mineral company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd., according to the report. Those two companies process the cobalt and sell it to battery-component manufacturers in China and South Korea, which sell components to battery manufacturers that claim to supply multinational tech and auto companies.

Mark Dummett, business and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, says in a news release:

“Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products.”

How do you feel about this report’s findings? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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