A new lawsuit emerged accusing some of the world’s largest technology firms about profiting from child laboring under brutal conditions in African cobalt mines, according to MarketWatch.
The lawsuit, which was filed this week in Washington by the nongovernmental organization International Rights Advocates, seeks damages from Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DELL), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Tesla, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), and Alphabet’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google.
Cobalt has become an essential element in the rechargeable lithium battery market. Many rechargeable devices such as phones, laptops, and even electric vehicles run on lithium-powered batteries.
Notably, the rise of smartphones in the past 20 years has fueled a large demand for cobalt, leading to its exponential price increase.
The lawsuit against the tech giants claims that they are “aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children” in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lawsuit also targets two mining companies, British-based Glencore and Chinese company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, which it says supply cobalt to all the defendants.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of 13 anonymous plaintiffs, all families with children who died or suffered serious injury while working in the cobalt mines.
The filings also claim that the cobalt demand “brought on a new wave of brutal exploitation” for the DRC. The suit also claims that hundreds of Congolese children have been forced by extreme poverty to work in the cobalt mines for as little as USD 2.00 per day.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Apple said it is “deeply committed to the responsible sourcing of materials that go into our products.” It says the company “removed” six cobalt refiners from its supply chain in 2019 for being unable to meet Apple’s safety standards.
Dell also released a statement saying that the allegations in the lawsuit are being investigated and also mentions it has “never knowingly sourced operations using any form of involuntary labor, fraudulent recruiting practices or child labor.”
Google said in its statement that “child labor and endangerment is unacceptable and our Supplier Code of Conduct strictly prohibits this activity.”
The other companies mentioned in the lawsuit have not yet responded to comments on the matter.