AI accuses electronic brands for lax of child labour

Amnesty International accuses technology brands such as Samsung, Apple and Sony for lax of child labour in Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A young man carries wet cobalt on his back at the Shinkolobwe cobalt mine near Likasi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A report released by Amnesty International on Tuesday stated that cobalt, mainly used in phone batteries, laptops and electric vehicles, could be the product from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that uses child labour.

Working with campaign group African Resources Watch (Afrewatch), Amnesty accused technology giants including Apple, Samsung SDI and Sony of lax oversight of the supply of cobalt from mines in Congo to smelters and on to battery-makers.

''As a result, consumer products sold across the globe could contain traces of the metal produced each year by informal Congolese mines without companies knowing,'' the report stated.

The executive director of Afrewatch Emmanuela Umpula who worked with Amnesty on the research said that "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."

In response to Amnesty's research, Apple Company said it followed a zero tolerance policy towards child labour, adding that it tries to find a way to improve labour identification.

Sony has not yet released any comments in regards to the accusations.

The report, based on research in Congo's mining heartland, singled out a smelter in southern Congo owned by Congo Dongfang Mining International (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd

The report said that CDM did not research the cobalt sources that it bought from, making it a ‘’high risk’’ that it was purchased from mines where children were forced to work in difficult conditions.

Samsung told Amnesty it was very difficult to follow sources of cobalt, due to complex supply networks; however, it refused the accusation that CDM or Huayou Cobalt were in its supplier network.

Congo's supply of the metals such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold has been under scrutiny since 2010, when laws in the United States required US-listed companies to ensure their supply chain was free from these so-called "conflict minerals."

Reuters, TRTWorld and agencies