Leading manufacturers of telecommunications gadgets, Apple, Google, Tesla, and Microsoft have been dragged before a United States court for child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The International Rights Advocates filed the suit on behalf of 14 Congolese families who were severely affected as a result of child labor in the Cobalt mines in DR Congo.
It is no news that DR Congo is rich in many rear earth minerals like Cobalt – a mineral that is in high demand by telecommunications gadgets companies all over the world.
The lawsuit filed against the companies mentioned above accused them of turning a blind eye to the 'known' fact that their cobalt demand is linked to child labor.
The Democratic Republic of Congo produces 60% of the world's supply of Cobalt, which is used to produce lithium-ion batteries used to power electric cars, laptops and smartphones.
However, the extraction process has been beset with concerns of illegal mining, human rights abuses, and corruption.
The lawsuit filed in the US argues that the tech companies had "specific knowledge" that the Cobalt sourced for their products could be linked to child labor.
They say the companies failed to regulate their supply chains and instead profited from exploitation.
Other companies listed in the lawsuit are computer manufacturer Dell and two mining companies, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and Glencore, who own the minefields where the Congolese families allege their children worked.
One of the accused companies, Glencore has released a statement to the UK's Telegraph newspaper saying that it "does not purchase, process or trade any artisanally mined ore" adding that it also "does not tolerate any form of the child, forced, or compulsory labor."
The International Rights Advocates is seeking compensation on behalf of the 14 Congolese families for forced labor, emotional distress, and negligent supervision.
Microsoft has also released a statement saying it was committed to responsible sourcing of minerals and that the company will investigate any violations by its suppliers and takes action.
At the time of making this report, Google, Apple, Dell, and Tesla were yet to release any statement on the matter.
Header Image Credit: The Ghion Journal