Microsoft Corporation found themselves on the defense when Amnesty International reported three years ago that the cobalt in some of their electronics was dug up by Congolese miners under inhumane conditions. Microsoft said they would audit their suppliers and fix the problem. Nothing happened!
concerned consumers, Dan, Lisa, Maria & Robin
At the Mutoshi cobalt mine, Congolese workers could be seen descending underground without helmets, shoes or safety equipment. The mine’s owner, Chemaf SARL, is key in the global cobalt supply chain for firms such as Microsoft. “Of course, people die,” said the CEO of Chemaf SARL in May 2019. “This is really shi@]#y work.” He called the miners “barbarians” and said Chemaf resisted giving them safety equipment because they would sell it.
Microsoft should stop as soon as possible with sourcing Cobalt from the Mutoshi mine, in order to halt the exploitation of Congolese miners.
It seems that the lucrative business of cobalt mining also results in landgrabbing...
Al Jazeera reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, authorities want to pay around 10 thousand families to move away from lucrative cobalt mines to make way for foreign mining companies. However, many people are refusing to leave because they do not trust the government to provide fair compensation..
An update from Amnesty International:
"Thanks to you and our supporters around the world Microsoft are beginning to bow to pressure."
Microsoft released a report in October 2018 setting out the steps they’ve taken to map their cobalt supply chain. While this is progress, Microsoft has a long way to go to meet our concerns and international standards.
The company has yet to tell us exactly how they’re identifying, preventing and addressing potential human rights abuses in their cobalt supply chain.
We’re halting our action for the moment, but we won’t let Microsoft rest until they follow up on their commitments, and there is real evidence of change on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo..
Ewelina U. Ochab
In late 2019, some of world’s largest tech companies, including Apple, Alphabet (which isthe parent company of Google LLC), Microsoft, Dell and Tesla (the Defendants), were named in a lawsuit brought in Washington DC court by 13 Congolese families (the Claimants).
The lawsuit alleges that their children were killed or injured while mining for cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Cobalt is a key component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, of the type used in electronic devices manufactured by these five companies.
The lawsuit alleges that “the young children mining Defendants’ 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 by tunnel collapses and other known hazards common to cobalt mining in the DRC.” Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla are alleged to have been aiding and abetting the deaths and serious injuries of the Claimant’s children working in cobalt mines in the supply chain of the tech corporations.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies “are knowingly benefiting from and providing substantial support to this ‘artisanal’ mining system in the DRC. Defendants know and have known for a significant period of time the reality that DRC’s cobalt mining sector is dependent upon children, with males performing the most hazardous work in the primitive cobalt mines, including tunnel digging. These boys are working under stone age conditions for paltry wages and at immense personal risk to provide cobalt that is essential to the so-called ‘high tech’ sector, dominated by Defendants and other companies.”
The families are seeking compensation for, among others, forced labor, unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress, wages promised but not paid, and “the loss of assets and of educational and business opportunities as a result of Defendants’ illegal conduct”, “damages for the mental anguish and pain and suffering Plaintiffs experienced as a result of being forced to labor against their will in horrific conditions and subjecting them to serious injuries and death.” The lawsuit further seeks an order for the tech companies to create a fund to ensure appropriate medical care for all those children who were injured while mining cobalt for the tech companies and to clean up the environmental impact of mining cobalt in DRC by the Defendants.
According to Siddharth Kara, an expert on modern day slavery, “more than 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the ‘copper belt’ of the south-eastern provinces of DRC.” His research suggests that “more than 255,000 creuseurs mining cobalt in DRC, at least 35,000 of whom are children, some as young as six.” His research claims that “children under the age of 14 years earn an average of $0.81 per day, adult females earn an average of $1.02 per day, and adult males earn an average of $2.04 per day.”