Monday, February 1, 2016

Amnesty International report links batteries used in phones to child labour in Congo

Child labour

Child Labour in Mines – Extract Material for Lithium-ion Batteries


Children as young as seven are being exploited by crooked mining companies in order to extract material utilised in making lithium-ion batteries which power the smartphones and tablets, according to Amnesty International and Afrewatch. The report found that around 40,000 children worked in mines all over the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC in 2014 for 12 hours and were paid between one and two US dollar per day.

Authors mentioned that the major electronic companies of the world like Apple, Samsung and Sony have failed to stop this. Their report, state that `this is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt. The agencies inform they were able to connect the sale of the material utilised in the making of the batteries, cobalt, to mines, which used child labour.

Mark Dummett, Amnesty International business and human rights researcher had commented that `the beautiful shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are obvious to the children carrying bags of rock and miners in narrow man-made tunnels with a risk of permanent lung damage.

No Safety Gears Provided


Millions of people appreciate the benefit of new technologies but seldom tend to ask how they are made. It is high time that the big brands take some kind of responsibility for the mining of raw materials which makes their profitable products.

Over half of the cobalt of the world is from the Democratic Republic of Congo with about 20% of which is extracted utilising a practice called artisanal mining wherein the workers seem to use their bare hands or basic tools like chisels in order to mine materials. No safety gears like hats, protective clothing or masks have been provided for them.

On examining the investor documents of Huayon Cobalt, the group found that after the companies had processed the material, it was sold to three battery component manufacturers, namely Ningbo Shanshan and Tianjin Bamo from China and L&F Materials from South Korea.The manufacturers in turn sold the material to battery makers that tend to supply technology and car companies

Several Accidents Go Unrecorded


Sixteen multinationals had been contacted by Amnesty International which was listed as direct or indirect customers of battery manufacturers mentioned in the report which sourced processed ore from Huayon Cobalt.

They included Ahong, Apple, BYD, Daimler, Dell, HP, Huawei, Inventec, together with Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Vodafone Volkswagen and ZTE. Mr Dumment had informed news.com.au that other than the use of child labour and the awful conditions put up by the workers, he found it shocking that the big multinationals who have combined global profits of about $125 billion had failed to have systems wherein they could trace cobalt.

Dummet mentioned that when Amnesty had contacted the companies, they were told that they had their policies in place regarding human rights abuses and use of child labour. However when pressed further regarding the cobalt they were unable to provide specifications According to the report, around 80 artisanal miners had died in southern DRC during September 2014 and December 2015. But the true figure is not known since several accidents tend to go unrecorded with the bodies left buried in the rubble.

Mr Dummet had stated that both organisations are coordinating with the multinational to investigate where their cobalt was extracted from and to be more transparent regarding their suppliers.

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