In a recent Amnesty International report, a number of technology and electric car companies have been criticized for failing to ensure that the minerals used in their products are not mined using child labour.
“The report claims that corporations such as Microsoft, Renault and Huawei have taken “little preventative action” into how the batteries used in their products could be linked to human rights abuses.
Cobalt mined by children and adults in horrendous conditions in the DRC is entering the supply chains of some of the world’s biggest brands,” said the report, which is titled Time To Recharge.
Children as young as seven were found scavenging for rocks containing cobalt by researchers in the mineral-rich but impoverished vast African country, the report said.
Car companies Renault and Daimler have “performed particularly badly”, with the human rights group starting an online petition demanding Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn to investigate his firm’s cobalt supply chain.
Moreover, Apple was named an industry leader after becoming the first company to publish the names of its cobalt suppliers this year, but other tech brands have made “alarmingly little progress,” including Microsoft, which is “not in compliance with even the basic international standards”.
More than 50% of the world’s cobalt comes from DR Congo, the report said, with 20% of exports hand-dug by “artisanal miners”.
“Amnesty International documented children and adults mining cobalt in narrow man-made tunnels, at risk of fatal accidents and serious lung disease,” the report said.
Competition for the accumulation mineral wealth in the DRC has bred widespread corruption, smuggling and mismanagement, while some funds have been used to fuel armed conflicts raging in the east of the country.