Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) among Companies Using Cobalt Mined by Children

Children Cobalt Mining
Image credit: Julien Harneis, Flickr

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Samsung and other leading global brands are some of the companies that have been mentioned as using cobalt that has been mined by children. In a new report that has just been published, Amnesty International alleges that many tech companies as well as, automakers such as Volkswagen make use of the now famous Lithium-Ion batteries.

The batteries are made of cobalt, a highly valuable mineral that is mined in Africa. The report says that the mineral is actually mined by underage children who are forced to work under the most deplorable conditions that can be imagined.

Apple, Microsoft and other globally-known companies do not have a direct control over the cobalt mining process. What usually happens is that these companies rely on a number of manufacturers to supply them with the batteries. Tech companies then end up using the batteries in their devices.

The companies that make batteries rely on their own chains of suppliers to access cobalt, among other important natural resources. What is important to note that in most cases, the cobalt that is supplied to the companies who manufacture batteries are collected from different sellers who get them from different mines.

According to the report, it is the manner in which the mines are operated that is shocking. The report documents how children are forced to work in deplorable conditions for even 24 hours for a paltry $2 as pay. One child who was quoted in the report said that he had been forced to work under such conditions by his foster parents.

Three things make the revelations of this report relevant. The first one is that companies such as Apple and Microsoft, which make use of cobalt in their devices, have a role to play. The second is that since a lot of the cobalt that is used in the world is actually obtained from Congo, a region that the report says is well known for the use of child labour in the mining process, there is the need for tech companies to act.

The third one is that as the report indicates, the problem is set to exacerbate if it is left unchecked. The report indicates that since September 2014, over 80 people have lost their lives while working in the cobalt mining pits in the Congo.

Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have separately reiterated their commitment to checking their suppliers to ensure that cobalt that has been mined by children does not get into their supply chains.