Apple, Google among tech firms sued over child labour

Tech giants Apple, Alphabet (parent company of Google), Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla have been named in a lawsuit filed in the US that alleged that these companies aided and abetted the mines that forced children to work in dangerous conditions while mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in the US District Court of Washington DC by International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates), a legal advocate group that aims to promote „human rights and corporate accountability through legal advocacy and capacity building“.

The lawsuits was filed on behalf of 14 anonymous (or „Doe“) plaintiffs who are either guardians of children killed in tunnel or wall collapses while mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo or children who were maimed in such accidents.

The DRC has the world’s largest deposits of cobalt, an essential element of rechargeable lithium-ion battery in products made by all tech and electric car companies.

The tech boom has caused an explosion in demand for cobalt, but it is mined in the DRC under extremely dangerous conditions by children paid a dollar or two a day, IRAdvocates said.

„Defendants Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla are all buying DRC cobalt that was mined in significant part by young children performing hazardous work for 2-3 US dollars per day or less,“ said the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs have evidence that these tech giants in particular aided and abetted the mines that abused and profited from forcing children to mine cobalt under conditions that led to their deaths or serious, crippling injuries, IRAdvocates said.

The failure of any of the defendants to implement known measures to address forced child labour in their cobalt supply chains is a wilful failure by defendants to avoid ending their windfall of getting cheap cobalt mined by forced child labour that they are acutely aware of, the lawsuit alleged.

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