The human rights organization Amnesty International has again criticized leading tech companies for not doing enough to combat child labor in the promotion of cobalt in Congo.The transition metal is mainly used in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electronic devices.

Amnesty International

As Amnesty International revealed two years ago in a report, Cobalt from the Congo is used in the production of batteries of all major smartphone manufacturers and also in laptops, tablets and electric cars. According to UNICEF figures, around 40,000 children were involved in cobalt mining in the south of the Congo in 2014. The only 7-year olds do their work without protective clothing such as work gloves, work clothes, and respiratory protection and earn only about 1 to 2 dollars per day.

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In a new analysis, the aid organization focuses primarily on IT companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple to check what has happened since then. As a result of media coverage, Apple had pledged not to use cobalt from child labor mines in the production of its equipment. Microsoft also addressed the issue and announced in August 2017 that it would support the organization Pact in its fight against child labor in cobalt mining.

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The new Amnesty report comes to a sobering result. None of the 29 companies surveyed by Amnesty International are sufficiently compliant with its due diligence obligations to disclose and suppress human rights violations, writes the charity. Companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Samsung would now control their cobalt supply chains more. However, one would be far from a complete review, which makes the efforts largely ineffective.

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There is a lack of transparency in all companies, so there is a risk that the buyer of a smartphone, laptop or e-car will unknowingly promote child labor, says Mathias John, Amnesty expert on economics and human rights. The German subsidiary of the aid organization, therefore, calls for the issue to be included in the ongoing exploratory talks for a four-party coalition in order to force companies to comply with their due diligence obligations by law.

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