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Cobalt mining: Congolese families sue tech companies

Last updated on December 18, 2019

Apple , Dell, Google , Microsoft and Tesla are being sued by a human rights organization on behalf of 14 Congolese families for serious injuries and deaths in cobalt mines. The tech companies are said to have knowingly used cobalt from mines where children were forced to work.

December 17, 2019, 4:46 p.m.

In der Demokratischen Republik Kongo wird Kobalt oftmals von Kindern abgebaut.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cobalt is often mined by children. (Image: JUNIOR KANNAH / AFP via Getty Images)

Human rights organization International Rights Advocates has sued Apple, Dell, Google, Microsoft, and Tesla in Washington, DC, for helping to cause serious and fatal injuries in Congolese cobalt mines. The Guardian reports with reference to court documents.

The organization represents 14 families from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who lost children in the mines or whose children were seriously injured by working in unsecured tunnels. According to the indictment, the tech companies were said to have known that the cobalt they bought came from mines where children work. Therefore, the companies are complicit in child forced labor.

The complaining families report in the court records of deaths from collapsing tunnels. In some cases, spilled or crashed children survived, but sustained serious injuries such as paraplegia. The children sometimes work as human donkeys for just $ 0.75 a day and carry cobalt stones from the tunnels to the production facilities.

Companies are accused of inaction

In the court files, the plaintiffs allege that the large tech companies have the market power to better monitor and, above all, regulate the supply of cobalt. In addition to the companies already mentioned, names of cobalt dealers such as the British company Glencore also appear in the files.

According to the Guardian, Apple emphasizes that the company is closely monitoring the cobalt recycling chain. Dell also rules out that cobalt from mines where children work was knowingly used. However, the manufacturer emphasizes that the allegations will be investigated. Microsoft has not commented in detail on the allegations, but explains through a spokesman that there will be consequences for possible violations.

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