Amnesty international has made some very damaging claims against gadget makers Apple, Samsung and Sony, in regards to child labour.
An investigation into a cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo found that children as young as seven were being employed to work in dangerous conditions.
In recent years, lithium-ion batteries have become one of the most common forms of power for consumer products, and can be found in tablets, phones, and even electric cars across the globe.
One of the major components of a lithium-ion battery, though, is cobalt.
According to the BBC, the firms said that they have a zero tolerance for child labour. Amnesty said that people working in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo face major long term health risks, as well a danger of accidental injury or death, and that at least 80 miners had died underground in the country in the sixteen months leading up to December 2015.
In response to the report, Apple said that “Underage labour is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards.”
It said that any underage workers found along its supply chain must have their safe return home paid for by the employer, have an education financed by the employer, and be offered a job by the employer when they become of age.
Samsung expressed similar sentiments, saying it rigorously checked their supply chains, and “if a violation of child labour is found, contracts with suppliers who use child labour will be immediately terminated.”
Sony stated: “We are working with the suppliers to address issues related to human rights and labour conditions at the production sires, as well as in the procurement of minerals and other raw materials.”
The report was made based on evidence found after looking into traders who had bought cobalt from areas where child labour is rife, and tracing the mineral through Zhejiand Huayou Cobalt Ltd. to the multinationals.
16 multinational corporations were connected in this way.
It should be noted that a large portion of children employed by the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo work on the surface, and not underground.
This is not the first time that the products and devices we carry in our pockets have been linked to such troubling sources.