After sports equipment manufacturing giants Adidas and Nike, now Big Tech like Apple, Google and Microsoft are under the radar for accusations against child labor. In 2017, slavery busters exposed how Adidas has no control over the third-party manufacturers located in other countries like India, Pakistan, and China.
A report published by CNN states that an international advocacy group has accused Apple, Google and Microsoft of knowingly benefiting from child laborers working in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. CNN also reported that the committee has filed a federal class action against the five companies in Washington, D.C.
Why Do Tech Giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft Need the Naturally Occurring Mineral Cobalt?
In case you are wondering why these tech companies need Cobalt. Cobalt is the main component in the creation of lithium-ion batteries used to power up the devices manufactured by these companies. Even your smartphone battery is made from the same mineral, and chances are the raw material used in making it came from Africa.
According to nSenergyBusiness, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the leading cobalt producing country in the world. Moreover, 60 percent of the world’s cobalt production comes from this tiny nation in central Africa. Only Russia, Canada, and Australia are the developed nations in their list of Cobalt rich nations in 2019.
What Response Did the Big Tech After Being Sued for Practicing Child Labor?
The representatives at Apple acknowledge the lawsuit by saying they are “deeply committed to the responsible sourcing of materials that go into our products”. A spokesperson also responded to CNN saying that “since 2016, we have published a full list of our identified cobalt refiners every year, 100% of which are participating in independent third-party audits”.
This year itself before the lawsuit, Apple has already removed six cobalt refiners that were suspected to be using children for digging Cobalt out of the ground.
Moreover, they also plan to stop buying Cobalt from mining companies that lacked sufficient equipment needed for such an operation. The spokespeople of Apple have already labeled these groups “artisanal miners”.
If these companies do not take decisive action, more Congolese families will have to see their children dying or being paralyzed (by falling in the mining pit or by breathing the toxic air in the surrounding area). The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries; petroleum and mineral extraction (except hunting and agriculture) being the main source of income for many families.