US tech giants accused over cobalt mine child labour abuse

WION Web Team New York, United States Dec 17, 2019, 05.25 PM(IST)

File Photo: Logo of company - Apple, Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet, Tesla and Dell Photograph:( AFP )

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The tech companies have been accused of child labour in 'violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.'

US tech giants Apple, Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet have been named in a lawsuit over the deaths of child labourers in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC).

Cobalt, a rare metal, is widely used by firms to make smartphones, laptops and electric cars.

Tesla and Dell have also been named in the lawsuit as defendants.

The International Rights Advocates (IRA) in its website said it had  filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of fourteen plaintiffs which it said were linked to were "either guardians of children killed in tunnel or wall collapses while mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo."

The IRA said it had "evidence" that the tech 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."

The tech companies have been accused of child labour in "violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act."

The campaign group said Congo is "the world’s largest deposits of cobalt" which is being used as an essential element in lithium-ion battery for "tech and electric car companies". Due to the boom in demand cobalt in mined under "most extreme contrasts" in DRC by children paid a dollar or two a day to supply cobalt, it said.

IRA said that the said companies failed to regulate their supply chains and instead profited from exploitation. The case has been launched by families whose children were killed or maimed while mining for cobalt, some children were killed in tunnel collapses while others were paralysed or suffered life-changing injuries, the advocacy group added.

The majority of Congo’s cobalt comes from large mining sites where rock is dug up by trucks, however, a growing proportion comes from an estimated one lakh fifty thousand "artisanal" or informal miners who dig by hand with growing demand for the metal scrutiny of mining practices is also on the rise.