Amnesty Intl. & Afrewatch report exposes child labour behind smart phone & electric car batteries

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Article
19 January 2016

Children as young as seven mining cobalt used in smartphones, says Amnesty

Author: Annie Kelly, Guardian (UK)

Children as young as seven are working in perilous conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to mine cobalt that ends up in smartphones, cars and computers sold to millions across the world, by household brands including Apple, Microsoft and Vodafone, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International. The human rights group claims to have traced cobalt used in lithium batteries sold to 16 multinational brands to mines where young children and adults are being paid a dollar a day, working in life-threatening conditions and subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation...In a joint-investigation with African Resources Watch (Afrewatch)....Amnesty International says it interviewed 90 adults and children working in five artisanal cobalt mine sites. Workers spoke of labouring for 12 hours a day with no protective clothing, and with many experiencing significant health problems as a result...The report says that Huayou Cobalt sources more than 40% of its cobalt from the DRC and processes the raw mineral before selling it to battery makers, who claim to supply companies including Apple, Microsoft and Vodafone...Responding to the allegations, Huayou Cobalt told Amnesty International that “our company has not been aware that any of our legitimate suppliers has hired child labour in their mining sites or operated in unsafe working conditions … CDM has rigorously selected its ore suppliers to ensure the procurement of raw materials through legitimate channels”. Of the 16 companies listed in the report as sourcing from battery manufacturers using processed cobalt from Huayou Cobalt, two multinational companies denied sourcing any cobalt from the DRC and five said they had no links with Huayou Cobalt. The remaining companies either accepted Amnesty’s claims or were investigating the claims. In its response to Amnesty’s allegations, which Amnesty has published in full alongside responses from the other named companies, Apple said it was currently evaluating whether cobalt in the company’s products originated in the DRC. “Underage labour is not tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards,” it says. Vodafone, in its response to Amnesty, stated that the company “is unaware as to whether or not cobalt in our products originates in Katanga in the DRC … both the smelters and the mines from which the metals such as cobalt are originally sourced are several steps away from Vodafone in the supply chain”. Amnesty International and Afrewatch claim that despite the denials by some of the named multinationals, none of those companies named could independently verify where the cobalt in their products come from...Mark Dummett, business and human rights researcher at Amnesty International...said that some of the company responses to Amnesty’s assertions were “staggering”. For example, when asked by Amnesty International whether it sourced cobalt from CDM or Huayou Cobalt, Microsoft responded by saying: “We have not traced the cobalt used through our supply chain to the smelter level due to the complexity and the resources required.” “These are some of the biggest companies in the world, with combined profits of $125 billion and there is no excuse that companies aren’t investing some of that profit into ensuring that they can trace where the minerals they are using are coming from,” says Dummett. “

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Article
19 January 2016

Exposed: Child labour behind smart phone and electric car batteries

Author: Amnesty Intl.

Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child labourers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published today. The report, This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt, traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children as young as seven and adults work in perilous conditions...The report documents how traders buy cobalt from areas where child labour is rife and sell it to Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd (Huayou Cobalt). Amnesty International’s investigation uses investor documents to show how Huayou Cobalt and its subsidiary CDM process the cobalt before selling it to three battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea. In turn, they sell to battery makers who claim to supply technology and car companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Daimler and Volkswagen...Amnesty International contacted 16 multinationals who were listed as customers of the battery manufacturers listed as sourcing processed ore from Huayou Cobalt. One company admitted the connection, while four were unable to say for certain whether they were buying cobalt from the DRC or Huayou Cobalt. Six said they were investigating the claims. Five denied sourcing cobalt from via Huayou Cobalt, though they are listed as customers in the company documents of battery manufacturers. Two multinationals denied sourcing cobalt from DRC. Crucially, none provided enough details to independently verify where the cobalt in their products came from...Amnesty International and Afrewatch are calling on multinational companies who use lithium-ion batteries in their products to conduct human rights due diligence, investigate whether the cobalt is extracted under hazardous conditions or with child labour, and be more transparent about their suppliers.

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Report
18 January 2016

"This is what we die for" Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo power the global trade in cobalt

Author: Amnesty Intl. & African Resources Watch (Afrewatch)

This report, jointly researched by Amnesty International and African Resources Watch (Afrewatch), examines the conditions under which artisanal miners extract a significant proportion of the world’s cobalt supply, and then traces how this mineral is traded. It is the first comprehensive account of how cobalt from the DRC’s artisanal mines enters the supply chain of multinational companies, including some of the world’s wealthiest electronics companies. The report assesses the extent to which companies have put in place human rights due diligence measures to know where the cobalt in their products comes from and the conditions under which it is extracted and traded. [includes responses by Apple, BYD, Dell, HP, Huawei, LG, Lenovo (which owns Motorola Mobility), Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Vodafone, Daimler, Volkswagen]

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