Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Tesla and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, must pay damages over knowingly profiting from African children laboring under brutal conditions, alleges the suit filed by the nongovernmental organization International Rights Advocates this week.
Cobalt is an essential element used in the rechargeable lithium batteries that fuel many electronic devices.
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A Google statement said, “Child labor and endangerment is unacceptable and our Supplier Code of Conduct strictly prohibits this activity.”
According to the lawsuit, the companies are “aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children” in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
DRC is the second largest African country by area and is reportedly one of the most mineral rich across the globe. It produces many of the world’s minerals, such as 75 percent of the world’s cobalt and 70 percent of the diamonds.
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The Britain-based firm Glencore and the Chinese company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt are also targeted in the lawsuit.
Forced by extreme poverty, hundreds of Congolese children have to work as cobalt boom has “brought on a new wave of brutal exploitation.”
Apple said the company is “deeply committed to the responsible sourcing of materials that go into our products.”
Dell also released a statement, claiming that it has “never knowingly sourced operations using any form of involuntary labor, fraudulent recruiting practices or child labor.”