Car and tech companies are scrambling for supplies of cobalt, a mineral they need to power electric vehicles and smartphones. But they have a problem: Much of the cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries comes from a country where children work in mines.
A CNN investigation has found that child labor is still being used to mine the valuable mineral at some operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This country produces about two-thirds of the world’s cobalt and is estimated to sit atop half of the globe’s reserves.
There have been warnings about child labor before — Amnesty International highlighted the problem in 2016 and Glencore (GLNCY), a leading cobalt producer, said last month that some small mines in the DRC are using children.
The problem may be getting worse. Rising demand has led cobalt prices to quadruple in the past two years, and that helped boost production at so-called artisanal miners in the DRC by 18% in 2017, according to Andries Gerbens at Darton Commodities.
Glencore said it does not process or buy any materials from these informal mines, which are often small-scale operations in local communities.
But, as CNN found, it isn’t easy for companies to avoid using cobalt from these smaller mines. Dealers at markets in the DRC were filmed buying cobalt without verifying its source and mining method. They then send it for processing where it is mixed with cobalt from other mines before ending up in batteries that power devices around the world.
For the rest of this article: http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/01/technology/cobalt-congo-child-labor-car-smartphone-batteries/index.html