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29 Sep 2016

Amnesty International UK

Electric cars: Running on child labour

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Leading electric car makers must come clean to their consumers about the steps they are taking to keep child labour out of their supply chains, and be open about any abuses that they do find...[specifically to ensure that] cobalt mined by child labourers as young as seven in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is not used in their batteries… Mark Dummett, Business and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty, said…“Amnesty's research shows that there is a significant risk of cobalt mined by children ending up in the batteries of electric cars. These vehicles are presented as the ethical choice for environmentally and socially conscious drivers...” More than half of the world’s cobalt, which is a key component in the lithium-ion batteries which power electric vehicles, comes from the DRC, 20% of which is mined by hand. Research by Amnesty for its report, This Is What We Die For, released in January 2016, found that adults and children as young as seven work in appalling conditions in artisanal mining areas...

…Amnesty has identified five car companies at risk…South Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem provides batteries for…GM…Renault-Nissan…Tesla…Samsung SDI, also from South Korea, supplies BMW…and Fiat-Chrysler…the two car manufacturers acknowledged in letters to Amnesty…Amnesty used investor documents to show how cobalt mined in the DRC is bought by…Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt…which supplies battery component manufacturers…[T]hese component manufacturers sell to battery makers including LG Chem and Samsung SDI, that supply many of the world’s largest car companies…Under international guidelines set out by the…OECD…companies which use cobalt mined in high-risk areas should identify their smelters…as well as disclose their own assessment of the…smelter’s due diligence practices…Amnesty is calling on all multinational companies that use lithium-ion batteries to prove that they are implementing their policies…

[Includes comments from BMW, Daimler, Fiat-Chrysler, and Renault. Also refers to BYD and Volkswagen.]