USA: Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft & Tesla face lawsuit over forced child labour in DRC cobalt mines

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Article
13 January 2020

Are These Tech Companies Complicit In Human Rights Abuses Of Child Cobalt Miners In Congo?

Author: Ewelina U. Ochab, Forbes

In late 2019, some of world’s largest tech companies, including Apple, Alphabet (which is the parent company of Google LLC), Microsoft, Dell and Tesla (the Defendants), were named in a lawsuit brought in Washington DC court by 13 Congolese families (the Claimants). The lawsuit alleges that their children were killed or injured while mining for cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)...

The lawsuit alleges that the companies “are knowingly benefiting from and providing substantial support to this ‘artisanal’ mining system in the DRC. Defendants know and have known for a significant period of time the reality that DRC’s cobalt mining sector is dependent upon children, with males performing the most hazardous work in the primitive cobalt mines, including tunnel digging. These boys are working under... 

According to Siddharth Kara, an expert on modern day slavery, “more than 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the ‘copper belt’ of the south-eastern provinces of DRC.” His research suggests that “more than 255,000 creuseurs mining cobalt in DRC, at least 35,000 of whom are children, some as young as six.” His research claims that “children under the age of 14 years earn an average of $0.81 per day, adult females earn an average of $1.02 per day, and adult males earn an average of $2.04 per day.”

To address the issue, in his 2018 article, Kara proposed that “any company sourcing cobalt from DRC must establish an independent, third-party system of verification that all mineral supply chains are cleansed of exploitation, cruelty, slavery, and child labor. They must invest whatever is needed to ensure the decent pay, safe and dignified working conditions, healthcare, education and general wellbeing of the people whose cheap labor they rely on.”

 

 

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Article
17 December 2019

Glencore statement on child labour allegations

Author: Glencore

Glencore takes note of the lawsuit filed in a US court by IRAdvocates on 15 December 2019 regarding child labour in the artisanal mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We are not a defendant to this lawsuit...

We offer our condolences and sympathy to the families and the children injured or killed as a result of artisanal mining activities. We do not tolerate any form of child, forced, or compulsory labour in our supply chain. We support and respect human rights in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Glencore does not purchase, process or trade any artisanally mined cobalt or copper...

 We recognise that artisanal mining is prevalent in the DRC and presents risks, particularly for children. As part of our broader strategy as a responsible corporate citizen in the country, we are engaging with the government and other stakeholders to find a sustainable solution. In this regard, Kamoto Copper Company, our operation in the DRC, is implementing a number of measures, including...

The lawsuit references a number of concessions as locations of injury or fatalities, some of which are erroneously claimed to be controlled and operated by KCC. The following concessions are not owned or controlled by KCC...

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Article
16 December 2019

Apple and Google named in US lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths

Author: Annie Kelly, The Guardian

A landmark legal case has been launched against the world’s largest tech companies by Congolese families who say their children were killed or maimed while mining for cobalt used to power smartphones, laptops and electric cars, the Guardian can reveal.

Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by human rights firm International Rights Advocates on behalf of 14 parents and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The lawsuit accuses the companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children who they claim were working in cobalt mines in their supply chain.

The families and injured children are seeking damages for forced labour and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress...

Cobalt is essential to power the rechargeable lithium batteries used in millions of products sold by Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla every year...The extraction of cobalt from DRC has been linked to human rights abuses, corruption, environmental destruction and child labour...The lawsuit argues that Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla all aided and abetted the mining companies that profited from the labour of children who were forced to work in dangerous conditions – conditions that ultimately led to death and serious injury...

A spokesperson for Glencore said: “Glencore supports and respects human rights in a manner consistent with the universal declaration of human rights.“Glencore does not tolerate any form of child, forced, or compulsory labour.” Huayou, Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have also been approached for comment...

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Article
15 December 2019

IRAdvocates Files Forced Child Labor Case Against Tech Giants Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla for Aiding and Abetting Extreme Abuse of Children Mining Cobalt in DRC.

Author: International Rights Advocates (USA)

IRAdvocates filed a federal class action lawsuit today...on behalf of 14 Doe Plaintiffs who are either guardians of children killed in tunnel or wall collapses while mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) or children who were maimed in such accidents. The DRC has the world’s largest deposits of cobalt, an essential element of rechargeable lithium-ion battery in products made by all tech and electric car companies...

The lawsuit names Apple, Alphabet (Google), Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla as Defendants. Plaintiffs have evidence that these companies in particular aided and abetted the mines that abused and profited from forcing Plaintiffs and other children to mine cobalt under conditions that led to their deaths or serious, crippling injuries...It is well-documented that the young children mining Defendants’ cobalt are not merely being forced to work full-time, extremely dangerous mining jobs at the expense their educations and futures; they are being regularly maimed and killed... 

Plaintiffs assert claims for forced child labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1595 et. seq. Plaintiffs also seek relief based on common law claims of unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Terry Collingsworth, stated “we will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent. In my 35 years as a human rights lawyer, I’ve never seen such extreme abuse of innocent children on a large scale. This astounding cruelty and greed need to stop”...

Dr. Liwanga, a DRC national, commented “this is the beginning of the end of impunity for those who have been economically benefiting from child labor in the DRC’s mining industry. DRC children also have an inherent and inalienable right to be protected from economic exploitation.” 

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Lawsuit
15 December 2019

United States District Court for the District of Columbia - Class Complaint for Injuctive Relief and Dammages

Author: International Rights Advocates (USA)

Defendants Apple Inc. (“Apple”), Alphabet, Inc. (“Alphabet”) (which is the parent company of Google LLC) (“Google”), Dell Technologies Inc. (“Dell”), Microsoft Inc. (“Microsoft”), and Tesla Inc. (“Tesla”) are knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children in Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) to mine cobalt, a key component of every rechargeable lithium-ion battery used in the electronic devices these companies manufacture.

The young children mining Defendants’ cobalt are not merely being forced to work full-time, extremely dangerous mining jobs at the expense their educations and futures; they are being regularly maimed and killed by tunnel collapses and other known hazards common to cobalt mining in the DRC... 

The Plaintiffs here are a representative group of children who were forced by extreme poverty to leave school and pursue the only economic option in their region of the DRC -- become “artisanal” cobalt miners. They are officially referred to as “artisanal” miners to dress up the fact that this means they are working in a large informal sector of people, including young children...Miners are regularly maimed or killed when a tunnel collapses, and frequently, the bodies of those trapped in the darkness of rubble are never recovered... 

Defendants Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla are knowingly benefiting from and providing substantial support to this “artisanal” mining system in the DRC. Defendants know and have known for a significant period of time the reality that DRC’s cobalt mining sector is dependent upon children, with males performing the most hazardous work in the primitive cobalt mines, including tunnel digging...

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