New Report Says Apple's Battery Suppliers Use Cobalt Mined by Child Labor

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Child labor is being used in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to mine cobalt, a mineral used in lithium-ion batteries found in devices from Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and car manufacturers Daimler and Volkswagen, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Smart-Battery-Case-Teardown

Children told Amnesty International they worked for up to 12 hours a day in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between one and two dollars a day. In 2014 approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across southern DRC, many of them mining cobalt, according to UNICEF.

The report says that local traders buy cobalt from areas with child labor and sell it to Congo Dongfang Mining, a subsidiary of Chinese mineral company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd, also known as Huayou Cobalt. Huayou Cobalt then processes and sells the cobalt to three battery component manufacturers -- Toda Hunan Shanshen New Material, Tianjin Bamo Technology and L&F Materal -- who sell to battery makers that claim to supply technology companies like Apple and Samsung.

When Amnesty International contacted the 16 companies listed as customers of those battery makers, one admitted to a connection, four weren't sure, six were investigating the claims and five denied the claim. Cobalt is not a regulated market, according to Amnesty International, and it is not listed as a "conflict" mineral in the United States like the gold, tin and tungsten mined in the DRC.

Apple provided a statement to the BBC, saying that "underage labor is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards." The company also pointed out that it has "rigorous audits" and any supplier found using child labor is forced to fund the worker's safe return home, finance the worker's education, continue to pay the worker's wages and offer him or her a job when he or she reaches the legal age. Apple also said that it is looking into the cobalt charge.

On cobalt specifically it added: "We are currently evaluating dozens of different materials, including cobalt, in order to identify labour and environmental risks as well as opportunities for Apple to bring about effective, scalable and sustainable change."

This isn't the first time one of Apple's suppliers has been found using child labor. In 2013 Apple revealed that it terminated business with one Chinese supplier after finding out that they were using child labor. That same year Apple formed an academic advisory board for its Supplier Responsibility program to assist in creating safe workspaces wherever its products are made.

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Top Rated Comments

chabig Avatar
66 months ago
New Investigation Finds Reporters from MacRumors and AppleInsider Use Devices Manufactured With Cobalt Mined by Child Labor
Score: 94 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chabig Avatar
66 months ago
"New Report Says Apple's Battery Suppliers Use Cobalt Mined by Child Labor" just doesn't get the same number of clicks as the honest headline, "New Report Says Battery Suppliers Use Cobalt Mined by Child Labor".
Score: 55 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gasu E. Avatar
66 months ago


This isn't the first time one of Apple's suppliers has been found using child labor.

Huh? There's nothing in the article about an Apple supplier using child labor. AI claims that cobalt is mined in the DRC using child labor. That cobalt is then sold on the world markets. Apple buys batteries from its suppliers, who manufacture them using cobalt bought on these markets. If it's like any other commodity, there could be any number of intermediaries in the chain. Basically any battery using cobalt would likely have a little bit that was mined using child labor.

The article says:

- there are areas with child labor
- cobalt from these areas is bought from the mines by local traders. Note the article never says definitively that children work in the cobalt mines
- local traders sell it to Congo Dongfan Mining/Huayou Cobalt
- Huayou Cobalt sells the process Cobalt to three battery component makers
- the battery component makers turn the cobalt into components and sell to unnamed battery makers
- these battery makers "claim" to sell to Apple, Samsung, car manufacturers, etc.

Not only are there enough hedging words to make the chain less than definitive, but there are FOUR intermediaries between Apple and the possible child labor.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dwfaust Avatar
66 months ago
What I find most disingenuous is the fact that Apple always gets these types of headlines... despite the fact that the other manufacturers are also as culpable (or not culpable) as Apple.

In this age low-information, some will read the headline, blame Apple and not bother reading even the first paragraph of the article.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jax44 Avatar
66 months ago
Child Confict Congo Cobalt Concerns Cook.

Amazon shares up 3%
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TonyC28 Avatar
66 months ago
I found this article about myself:
"Illinois man uses iPhone purchased from Apple which uses a battery made by another company who used parts bought from another company who got their cobalt from child labor."
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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