Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung tied to horrific child labor in new report

Children working in a Cobalt mine

An Amnesty International report — created in partnership with Africa-focused NGA Afrewatch claims that Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft, and other tech companies and carmakers, are using child labor to create the products we buy on a daily basis.

The child labor practices are most prevalent in the sourcing of minerals used to create batteries.

The report is focused on cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which accounts for half of the world’s cobalt sourcing. According to the report, children as young as seven are working in dangerous conditions for one to two dollars a day.

Some children work in between school days while others have been removed completely from the education system to focus on cobalt mining.

The children, according to Amnesty, work in hazardous and cramped conditions with little to no protection.

Amnesty claims that some 80 miners died in southern DRC during the final four months of 2015. Many more deaths may have gone unreported since. Bodies are often buried in rubble, making it hard to keep track of actual death tolls.

The report focused on Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM) and Huayou Cobalt, DC-based subsidiaries of companies from China and Korea respectively, which “buy cobalt from [traders in] areas where child labour is rife.”

Movement of Cobalt

Movement of cobalt from DRC mines to the global market — via Amnesty International

Amnesty says it has received a mixture of responses from the 16 companies it contacted:

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.

“It is a major paradox of the digital era that some of the world’s richest, most innovative companies are able to market incredibly sophisticated devices without being required to show where they source raw materials for their components,” Afrewatch Executive Director Emmanuel Umpula said in a statement.

Amnesty International and Afrewatch are asking that multinational companies using lithium-ion batteries perform due diligence before sourcing the materials they need to create their products.