Apple has announced that it will temporarily suspend buying hand-mined cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, less than a week after the publication of a Sky News investigation chronicling brutal “slave conditions” and child labor in cobalt mines there. Cobalt is one of the most precious minerals in the world for the tech industry. It’s an indispensable component of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that run smartphones and laptops. Reports that major corporations such as Apple, Sony, and Samsung use cobalt sourced from so-called “artisanal” mines — small-scale mines where workers use the most basic tools — with little to no labor regulations in the DRC have come out for years. In 2016, Amnesty International released a report that demonstrated how these companies fail to do even basic checks to ensure that child labor isn’t being used to extract the cobalt they use for their products. The report also found that no country requires companies to regulate or publicly disclose information about their cobalt supply chains. The Sky News investigation found children as young as 4 years old working in the mines, crippling health issues linked to fumes, and pay equivalent to around a dime for a day’s worth of backbreaking labor. One of the most prominent players in the flow of cobalt from Africa to manufacturers in Asia is Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company. The Chinese company is the largest buyer of artisanal cobalt in the DRC and supplies most of the world’s biggest battery makers, including Apple.
Read more at: vox.com