How electric car & tech companies could be using child labour-mined cobalt from small-scale miners in Dem. Rep. of Congo; includes companies' comments

Car and technology companies source cobalt, which is used in powering electric vehicles and smartphones, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. A CNN investigation has revealed that children still work in some smaller mines, posing a challenge for the companies in ensuring ethical sourcing.

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3 May 2018

Daimler promises to audit cobalt supply to ensure child labour not used to power its electric vehicles

Author: Mark Thompson, CNN

"Daimler promises to audit cobalt supply 'to the mine'"

A day after a CNN investigation into abuses in cobalt mining, the maker of Mercedes cars pledged to investigate its supply chain to ensure child labor is not being used to power its electric vehicles. "We want to prevent violations of human rights effectively at an early stage, and have created the necessary tools to do so," said Renata Jungo Brüngger, director of integrity and legal affairs at Germany's Daimler...CNN shared its reporting from the DRC with Daimler on April 3, including evidence that dealers at markets in the DRC were buying cobalt from those small mines without verifying its source and mining method. Daimler has "explicitly forbidden" child labor in its supply chain for years, but like other carmakers has acknowledged how difficult it is to verify the source of cobalt -- a mineral used in lithium-ion batteries.

 BMW told CNN last month that it was considering buying cobalt directly from miners to avoid operations that exploit children. Volkswagen -- which has plans to launch dozens of new electric cars has introduced new rules for all its suppliers to ensure there's no child labor in the supply chain.  Daimler said on Wednesday it would work with 1,500 suppliers worldwide to raise sustainability standards in the supply chain "to the next level" as part of a new approach the company called "the Human Rights Respect System." A company spokesman said it had started work on the new system in 2013. "We actively create transparency in the supply chain, right down to the mine if necessary," said Sabine Angermann, head of purchasing and supplier quality for raw materials and strategy at Mercedes-Benz cars.

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2 May 2018

How carmakers & big technology companies struggle to keep batteries free from child labor

Author: Alanna Petroff, CNN

"Carmakers and big tech struggle to keep batteries free from child labor"

Car and tech companies are scrambling for supplies of cobalt, a mineral they need to power electric vehicles and smartphones. But they have a problem: Much of the cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries comes from a country where children work in mines. A CNN investigation has found that child labor is still being used to mine the valuable mineral at some operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This country produces about two-thirds of the world's cobalt and is estimated to sit atop half of the globe's reserves.Glencore said it does not process or buy any materials from these informal mines, which are often small-scale operations in local communities.

But, as CNN found, it isn't easy for companies to avoid using cobalt from these smaller mines. Dealers at markets in the DRC were filmed buying cobalt without verifying its source and mining method. They then send it for processing where it is mixed with cobalt from other mines before ending up in batteries that power devices around the world.

 BMW (BMWYY), Volkswagen (VLKAY) and Mercedes owner Daimler (DMLRY) acknowledged how difficult it is to verify the source. BMW said it makes "every effort to ensure the highest possible standards in the labor practices of our suppliers" but admitted it could do more. Now, it's considering buying the prized mineral directly from miners to avoid operations that exploit children. "A further step could be to purchase directly from miners, which is an option we are looking into," BMW told CNN.

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2 May 2018

How child labour is prevalent in cobalt mines

Author: Nima Elbagir, Dominique van Heerden, and Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

"Dirty Energy"

The clean energy revolution hinges on The Democratic Republic of Congo where conflict, corruptio and child labour are rife....CNN travelled to Lualaba province to track the cobalt supply chain, from small-scale miners to the world's biggest electronics and electric vehicle brands...Before we arrived, local mining officials cleared a group of children from the lake. We could see them clambering up a hillside sacks of cobalt in hand...

CNN asked Apple, Microsoft, General Motors, Tesla, Samsung, BMW, Daimler, Renault, Chrysler and Volkswagen to reveal their suppliers - as per OECD guidelines...While all the companies have a zero-tolerance policy on the use of child labour, many...say they are unable to fully map their supply chain due to its "complex nature". 

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