Among the most important of the mineral resources in today’s modern world of technology is Cobalt – a chemical element, ferromagnetic metal of Group 9 (VIIIb) of the periodic table used mainly for heat resistant and magnetic alloys, according to britannica.com
Cobalt being an essential mineral needed in today’s world is used to produce Lithium-ion batteries used on electric cars, laptops, and smartphones.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is endowed with Cobalt, with over 60% of the world’s Cobalt buried in their land. But with the look of situations in the Congo Republic, it looks like a curse in disguise.
With the global demand for Cobalt increased from seven per cent to 13 per cent annually over the next decade, according to a study made by the European Commission in 2018, Child labour was forced on children as young as six years old with a said number of over 40,000 child miners in Southern DR Congo as artisanal miners using chisels, hammers, and other digging tools while the rest handpick rocks rich in Cobalt ore, sifting leftover rocks searching for ores.
Most of the child miners were reportedly ill frequently with either dermatitis as a result of skin contact with Cobalt, and lung disease due to the inhaled Cobalt dust, as none of them, have masks or gloves.
Children work for over 12 hours daily working at the mines for 2 USD, even on an empty stomach.
14-year-old Paul explained that he spend a whole 24 hours down the tunnels fetching Cobalt just for $2
Young Mathy narrated how she was forced into mining after when her father lost her job. She had to work so she could eat, while 15-year-old Dany cried that there are clouds of dust and it’s easy to get cold while working at the mine.
Many of them were forced into child labour to take care of their schooling, while others, to feed themselves.
In 2019, some the world’s biggest tech companies were filed lawsuits for having hands in the reoccurring deaths of children who were forced into Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A US-based Human Rights – the International Rights Advocates, on behalf the families of the children died in the mines, filed a legal lawsuit against Microsoft Corporations, Apple Inc, Tesla Inc, Alphabet Inc, Dell Technologies, and two mining companies in Congo, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and Glencore.
According to the 14 families, they want the company to compensate them for the forced labour on the children, negligent supervision, and emotional distress they passed through.
Representatives of Microsoft and Apple Inc explained that the company is committed to a responsible supplier of their materials which each is expected to meet their standard of supply. At the same time, Glencore defended they are against any form of child labour nor do they patronize artisanal miners.
Among the evidence presented to the court are pictures of child miners that were buried alive, and those that suffered from tunnel collapses.