Global consumer demand for rechargeable batteries to power mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and electric vehicles is growing rapidly.
The growing global market for rechargeable batteries is driving demand for the extraction of cobalt, a mineral that is necessary in lithium-ion batteries.
Many American consumers are not aware of the deadly process behind the making of batteries for smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles— It is literally killing young children in Africa.
Cobalt is a mineral essential to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power handheld devices and electric vehicles. Over half of the world's cobalt, 60 percent, originates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a special report by Amnesty International.
The conditions at the cobalt mines are harsh and deplorable. The use of child labor is common and exposure to deadly pollutants is out of control.
The Cobalt Kids
UNICEF estimates that approximately 40,000 boys and girls work in all the mines across southern DRC, many of them involved in cobalt mining.
Artisanal mining in DRC is often done by hand, using the most basic tools. Children work up to 12 hours a day carrying heavy loads, while earning between $1 and $2 a day.
According to Amnesty International and Afrewatch's comprehensive report, "even those children who went to school worked 10 – 12 hours during the weekend and school holidays, and in the time before and after school. The children who were not attending school worked in the mines all year round."
The Situation Remains Unchanged
Many companies have promised to improve their mining practices. But not much has changed.
From a September 30, 2016 article in The Washington Post:
In the past year, a Dutch advocacy group called the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations, known as SOMO, and Amnesty International have put out reports alleging improprieties including forced relocations of villages and water pollution. Amnesty’s report, which accused Congo Dongfang of buying materials mined by children, prompted a fresh wave of companies to promise that their cobalt connections were being vetted.
But the problems remained starkly evident when Post journalists visited mining operations in Congo this summer.
US CONSUMER COALITION
The US Consumer Coalition has launched a campaign to educate consumers on how the extraction of a key component in rechargeable batteries is exposing miners and young children to fatal diseases and human rights abuses. You can follow and join our social media campaign using #CobaltKids.