Human rights and child labour. Amnesty accuses computer and smartphone battery manufacturers

Secondo Amnesty International il cobalto utilizzato nelle batterie dei dispositivi elettronici e nelle auto verrebbe estratto e lavorato anche da minori.

We find it in every lithium-ion battery contained in our smartphones, computers, electric vehicles. It is cobalt, mineral mostly coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s extracted in mines where often minors are employed, collecting, cleaning and transporting this precious mineral.

Kasulo, where locals and minors mined hundreds of wells to extract the precious mineral © Amnesty International

This is what revealed the latest report by Amnesty International, This is What We Die For, drafted in collaboration with the NGO Afrewatch. The association deals with human rights and operates in Congo since 2011, where it visited numerous mines and interviewed hundreds of minors.

It carried out a research backwards, retracing cobalt’s entire supply chain, from mines to the Chinese mining giant Zheijang Huayou Cobalt Ltd and three other companies manufacturing batteries: Ningbo Shanshan and Tianjin Bamo, China, and L&F Materials, South Korea.

Women working in a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo © Amnesty International

From Apple to Samsung, cobalt comes from child labour

Such batteries end up in electronic devices of the major smartphone and computer producers: Ahong, Apple, Byd, Daimler, Dell, Hp, Huawei, Inventec, Lenovo, Lg, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Vodafone, Volkswagen, and Zte.

Amnesty International contacted 16 multinationals to verify their cobalt supply. Many were unable to say for certain whether they were buying cobalt, whilst others denied sourcing cobalt from these manufacturers. However, as reported by Amnesty, “none provided enough details to independently verify where the cobalt in their products came from”.

Cobalt transportation © Amnesty International

The report explains that the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries, affected by poverty and civil wars. And small mines are often the only source of survival for entire families.


I would spend 24 hours down in the tunnels. I arrived in the morning and would leave the following morning.

Paul, 14


It is confirmed by children’s voices: “I would spend 24 hours down in the tunnels. I arrived in the morning and would leave the following morning. I had to relieve myself down in the tunnels,” said Paul, 14-year-old orphan and cobalt miner. “My foster mother planned to send me to school, but my foster father was against it, he exploited me by making me work in the mine”.

It’s a global market lacking any kind of control, which should be unavoidable for the entire electronic supply chain. It thus conceals tens and tens of people victim of terrible and inhuman health and working conditions.

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