The tech giants Tesla and Apple stand accused of aiding child labor in Africa. The reason behind the accusation is not to solely promote a social media hype. The internet is familiar to the strokes of key-word searches relating to the mention of these two renowned tech innovators. Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC, a country in Central Africa, is in the middle of this mess. The country has a vibrant turnout of Cobalt.
The Core of the Tech Giants
Cobalt is the metallic mineral that gives life to your favorite electronic device, a smartphone. Its use is thus in the manufacture of batteries used in smartphones and computers. The metallic mineral can, therefore, take pride as the reason behind the household names of Tesla and Apple. The glory and praises behind such companies and their innovations are, however, on a short leash.
Child Laboring Technology
Fourteen families from the DRC have an active complaint filed under the International Rights Advocates. It is a Human Rights Group based in the US. The accusation comes after several children have succumbed to questionable deaths after being forcefully put to mine cobalt. The accused firms include Dell, Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet, which is a parent company to Google.
The complaint points the finger at the companies for knowingly being part of a system that forces children to early-labor. The families in question claim that such forceful partaking of their children in Cobalt mining continues to be dangerous. If the involved children escape the death trap, they end up with fatal injuries. Such injuries can last a lifetime.
In Washington DC, the US district court bares witness to picture pieces of evidence of children with missing or disfigured limbs. Such effects are as a result of the children used as slaves at the Cobalt mining sites. Thus the lawsuit justifies itself through the presented pieces of evidence. It is not that the DRC lacks the skilled workforce to extract the cobalt mineral effectively. The head of such mining operations targets the young due to their cheap or free labor. The young children are easy to manipulator and control and also disposable.
Tesla and Apple stand accused of aiding child labor in Africa to meet their technological demands. The complaint presents a case of 14 children affected by the cobalt mining operations in DRC. Six of the children lost their lives when a tunnel collapsed amid their mining operations. The other survivors of the crisis are nursing life-altering injuries and complications. The complaint states paralysis as one of the life-altering complications.
A Mad Mad World
Terrence Collingsworth is the families’ representative lawyer that is pushing for action against the tech giants. He claims that these productive fancy-gadget-making companies are the ones paving the way for the maim of young children in Africa. Besides, the ones that aren’t so lucky lose their lives as such companies compete for cheap Cobalt. The complaint states the compensation such children receive is as little as $1.50 per day working six days per week.
Mr. Collingsworth further implies how the children of DRC live by two choices each day. They can either starve to death or risk their lives through an underpaying cobalt mining job.
Judge and Jury
Tesla and Apple stand accused of aiding child labor in Africa to propagate new technological leaps. The rechargeable lithium batteries that make millions of tech products operational is an offspring of Cobalt. The tech industry makes millions of dollars from such components alone. Thus DRC owning half of the Cobalt in demand by such sectors makes it an actual gold mine.
The European Commission is backed by its 2018 study, which predicts a 7% to 13% annual increase in Cobalt’s demand.
Dell company is launching an investigation to clarify the allegation that might tie them to child-labored products. Apple is on a ‘responsible sourcing’ journey of such materials. It cut ties with six cobalt refiners in the course of the 2019 calendar to cope with unmet standards. No immediate response is on record regarding Microsoft, Google, Tesla, and Glencore, which is a mining company.
The modern slavery researcher, Siddharth Kara, depicts this unraveling as the worst in his two decades of research. It is a grave injustice to child slavery and exploitation.