Black History: Special Delivery!!
Cobalt is a mineral utilized for lithium batteries in computers, electric cars, and cell phones. The demand for cobalt continues to rise. According to estimates by the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance, the demand for cobalt is expected to grow fourfold by 2030; mainly due to the electric vehicle boom. The demand for cobalt has tripled in the last several years.
Greater than 60% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is often mined by impoverished men, women, and children for as little as $2 per day. Appalling human rights violations related to mining operations abound at artisanal mines in the DRC. Workers at these mines typically have no safety equipment. It is also well known that handling cobalt exposes workers to toxins that sicken workers and cause birth defects. DRC has experienced significant conflict and disruption. DRC has also faced the challenge of fighting Ebola and government corruption. Child labor, serious injuries, fatal accidents, violent conflict between miners and security personnel occur regularly.
In 2019, Apple, Tesla, Google, Dell, and Microsoft were sued by Congolese families who were injured or died due to mining cobalt. The lawsuit alleges that these tech companies “aided and abetted” in the deaths and serious injuries. Families seek damages for forced labor and additional compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. This was the first time that any tech firms have faced this type of legal challenge. A central focus of the lawsuit is that the tech firms named in the suit had “specific knowledge” of the conditions workers were facing.
The world has developed a voracious appetite for technology and digital devices. The world must also stop to consider that our appetite for technology is facilitated by the dehumanization and exploitation of vulnerable men, women, and children. Why is it that advancement often comes through means of exploitation? Check out the video, “Special Report: Inside The Cobalt Mines That Exploit Children”