IRAdvocates sue Goggle, Apple, other tech giants over abuse of children miners in DR Congo
London, Dec. 17, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Death of children miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC has become a subject of international litigation after some families launched an unprecedented lawsuit in the US against some of the world’s biggest tech firms who they allege have “aided and abetted and benefited enormously” from the brutal use of child labour in cobalt mines.
Other companies named in the lawsuit been prosecuted by the rights group International Rights Advocates (IRA) are Apple, Tesla, Dell as well as Alphabet “Plaintiffs’ research team is continuing to investigate other tech and car companies and expects to add additional companies to the lawsuit. A statement by IRA on its website added
The DRC has the world’s largest deposits of cobalt, an essential element of rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers smartphones, laptops and electric cars – and more than 60% of it comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo
The tech boom has caused an explosion in demand for cobalt, but in one of the most extreme contrasts imaginable, cobalt is mined in the DRC under extremely dangerous stone age conditions by children miners paid a dollar or two a day to supply cobalt for the expensive gadgets made by some of the richest companies in the world.
Speaking on behalf of 14 Congolese families, the human rights group International Rights Advocates alleged that the organisations have been complicit in the death and injury of children extracting cobalt from mines.
“Plaintiffs have evidence that these companies in particular aided and abetted the mines that abused and profited from forcing Plaintiffs and other children to mine cobalt under conditions that led to their deaths or serious, crippling injuries” It said in the statement
Continuing, the statement added “It is well-documented that the young children mining cobalt are not merely being forced to work full-time, extremely dangerous mining jobs at the expense their educations and futures; they are being regularly maimed and killed.
“Rather than step up to help these children with a negligible portion of their vast wealth and power, these companies do nothing but continue to benefit from cheap cobalt mined by kids robbed of their childhoods, their health, and for far too many, their lives”
The lawsuit highlighted several examples whereby children were buried alive or paralysed following tunnel collapses and suffered from broken spines while carrying heavy goods. As part of their lawsuit, the families are requesting compensation for forced labour, emotional distress and negligent supervision.
Plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Terry Collingsworth, said “we will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent. In my 35 years as a human rights lawyer, I’ve never seen such extreme abuse of innocent children on a large scale. This astounding cruelty and greed need to stop
Dr. Liwanga, a DRC national, commented “this is the beginning of the end of impunity for those who have been economically benefiting from child labor in the DRC’s mining industry. DRC children also have an inherent and inalienable right to be protected from economic exploitation.”
In response, Microsoft says it “is committed to responsible and ethical sourcing” and that if there was “questionable behavior or possible violation by one of our suppliers, we investigate and take action”, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph
“If there is questionable behaviour or possible violation by one of our suppliers, we investigate and take action. We recognise that global raw material supply chains are vast and complex systems involving millions of entities that we cannot impact alone. It’s why we continue to work with suppliers, NGOs and the larger industry to improve things on the ground and address these important issues.”
The other companies have not yet commented.