A new lawsuit filed recently accused some of the largest technology companies profiting from children working in African cobalt mines. These children are working under severe conditions. International Rights, an NGO, filed a lawsuit in Washington the earlier week. The lawsuit claimed Apple (APL), Dell, Microsoft (MSFT), and Alphabet (Google). Cobalt is an essential element in rechargeable lithium batteries and also provides fuel. It is useful in many electronic devices. The rise of smartphones in the past 20 years created a massive demand for the metal, and the rising popularity of electric cars is expected to increase demand further.
The lawsuit filed states that the companies are aiding and abetting the brutal use of children in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The trial is against two mining companies, Glencore GLEN in the UK, and Chinese company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, which supply cobalt to all defendants. The litigation was filed on behalf of 13 anonymous applicants and all the families who lost their children or suffered grave injuries while mining cobalt. The lawsuit claims that the rise of cobalt use brought fierce exploitation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was once considered the personal property of King Leopold of Belgium. Thousands of children of Congo have been forced to work in cobalt mines owing to extreme poverty. The Congolese children dig underground tunnels with primitive equipment for the pay of merry US $2 per day. Apple company issued a statement recently which said that the company is committed to the responsible sourcing of materials used in their products. The company also further added that six cobalt refiners were dismissed after they failed to meet Apple’s security standards.
Dell said in a statement that the allegations in the lawsuit were under investigation. Also, it declared that the company never intended to use any form of involuntary labor, fraudulent recruitment methods or child labor to conduct business. Google’s statement said that child labor and lethal behavior are not acceptable. It also said that the supplier code of conduct of the company prohibits such activity. The other companies mentioned in the charge did not immediately respond to the acquisition.