Archive | Mining Child and Slave Labour – Historical and Current

CBS News finds children mining cobalt for batteries in the Congo (CBS News – March 5, 2018)

A CBS News investigation has found child labor being used in the dangerous mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mineral cobalt is used in virtually all batteries in common devices, including cellphones, laptops and even electric vehicles.

A report by Amnesty International first revealed that cobalt mined by children was ending up in products from several companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Tesla and Samsung.

CBS News traveled to the DRC to follow the complex supply chain. As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, it’s been two years since that damning Amnesty report was published, but the DRC is a country embattled in conflict, and it is difficult and sometimes dangerous to report from there. Continue Reading →

Congo says will campaign to prevent child labor in cobalt mines (Reuters U.S. – March 1, 2018)

LONDON (Reuters) – The Democratic Republic of Congo will launch this month new monitoring and tracing mechanisms to tackle child labor in cobalt and copper production, a mines ministry official said on Thursday.

Sourcing of the metals has come into focus as manufacturers scramble to secure supplies of cobalt, a key component in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, as production of electric cars surges.

Congo is by far the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, accounting for more than half of global supply. But rights groups say child labor is used to produce some of that cobalt. Amnesty International calculates a fifth of the country’s cobalt output is mined by hand by informal miners, including children. Continue Reading →

Scarce, expensive cobalt essential for electric cars – by Terry Cain (Globe and Mail – February 27, 2018)

The recent market turmoil has knocked back the value of most asset classes. But one group has held up surprisingly well. After rising dramatically in 2017, certain scarce metals, such as cobalt and lithium, continue to be hot commodities. In fact, the price of cobalt has set a new record high. So what is driving this rally, can it continue, and how can investors benefit?

The key factor driving these metals is surging demand for lithium-ion batteries. These power sources are the most popular kind of rechargeable batteries used in home electronics, as well as electric vehicles. Production and sales of these batteries have taken off as global sales for these products surge.

As the name indicates, one of the key ingredients in lithium-ion batteries is lithium. The price of the silvery-white metal, sometimes called “white gold,” has spiked by nearly 500 per cent over the past five years, though it has pulled back in the first part of this year. Australia and South America are the main lithium producers. Continue Reading →

Pandering to electric-vehicle owners contains blind spots – by Konrad Yakabuski (Globe and Mail – February 28, 2018)

Electric-vehicle sales more than doubled in Ontario in 2017 as rebates worth up to $14,000 per car propelled the province past Quebec to become Canada’s EV leader. Many electric-car fans celebrated this as proof that Ontario’s latest incentives to encourage EV sales are working.

Working for them, maybe. But what about for taxpayers and the planet? We already know that government rebates on EV purchases are a horrendously expensive way to reduce carbon. Encouraging consumers to move to smaller gasoline-powered cars by increasing sales taxes on fossil fuels would do so much more to cut emissions.

What’s more, it is now becoming clear that mining the massive amounts of cobalt and lithium needed to manufacture the bigger batteries required to increase EV range and reliability risks creating a slew of unintended social, economic and environmental consequences. Continue Reading →

Commentary: For cobalt buyers, is artisanal mining the problem or the solution? – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – February 22, 2018)

LONDON (Reuters) – One reason the cobalt price has gone supernova over the last year is the realisation that not only does most of the available supply come from just one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but a good part of it comes from artisanal mines.

In the case of cobalt, however, artisanal mining may in fact be part of the solution to securing long-term supplies of the “hot” metal used for lithium-ion batteries key to the electric vehicle revolution. The real problem in the DRC is less this mining itself, but more the lawlessness that surrounds it and makes much of the cobalt from the region effectively a “conflict mineral”.

For as Apple has already found out and automotive companies are learning, it’s tricky enough selling yourself as a pioneer of 21st century technology if one of your key raw materials conjures up images of impoverished children wheeling barrows laden with ore or being lowered into rickety tunnels. Continue Reading →

Apple’s potential mining play is about more than money, industry experts say – Natasha Turak (CNBC News – February 22, 2018)

Recent reports that Apple is looking to procure cobalt, an essential component in smartphone batteries, directly from mining companies have highlighted a growing concern about the valuable metal’s impending supply shortage.

But just as important as securing a supply of the limited resource may be what one expert calls a “21st century factor” — ethics and human rights.

“Apple is a buyer of batteries, not a buyer of battery components, and it’s a number of steps away from the raw materials side. So this is significant — the reason they’re doing it is supply chain visibility,” Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Minerals, told CNBC. “They need to know that children have not been illegally mining where their cobalt is coming from.” Continue Reading →

Mines Linked to Child Labor Are Thriving in Rush for Car Batteries – by Thomas Wilson and Jack Farchy (Bloomberg News – February 19, 2018)

The appetite for electric cars is driving a boom in small-scale cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some mines have been found to be dangerous and employ child labor.

Production from so-called artisanal mines probably rose by at least half last year, according to the estimates of officials at three of the biggest international suppliers of the metal, who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak on the matter.

State-owned miner Gecamines estimates artisanal output accounted for as much as a quarter of the country’s total production in 2017. That’s a concern for carmakers from Volkswagen AG to Tesla Inc., who are seeking to secure long-term supplies of the battery ingredient but don’t want to be enmeshed in a scandal about unethical mining practices. Continue Reading →

Exclusive – London Metal Exchange aims to ban metal sourced with child labour – by Pratima Desai and Tom Daly (Reuters U.K. – February 13, 2018)

LONDON/BEIJING (Reuters) – The London Metal Exchange could remove companies from its list of approved metal suppliers if they fall short of industry standards following an outcry about cobalt mined by children in Africa, three sources said.

The exchange will issue principles for responsible sourcing in coming months and producers will have to show their metal meets industry standards that conform with the new LME guidelines, the sources familiar with the matter said.

“The LME has to be policeman. It can do that by making sure industry standards on child labour and conflict minerals are being met, that there is auditing and certification,” a source on an LME committee said. Continue Reading →

Top jewellery brands failing to ensure gold, diamonds mined ethically, Human Rights Watch says – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – February 8, 2018)

Some of the world’s leading jewellery companies are failing to ensure that their gold and diamonds are mined ethically, according to Human Rights Watch, despite two decades of efforts to clean up the industry.

While the world has made progress limiting the flow of diamonds linked to conflict, so-called blood diamonds, leading brands such as Boodles, Rolex, Cartier and Bulgari are failing to do enough to show that all their gems are not linked to broader human rights abuses, the New York-based group said.

“An increasing number of customers want to be sure the jewellery they buy has not fuelled human rights abuses,” Juliane Kippenberg, associate child rights director at Human Rights Watch, said. Continue Reading →

A small town in Quebec could power the next wave of electric cars – by Ashley Renders (Vice News – January 30, 2018)

But Sudol doubts recycling would satisfy the demand for batteries.
The global population is growing and people want cell phones, cars,
urban transportation and a higher standard of living—all of this
is metal intensive, says Sudol. If we can’t dig for these metals
in a place like Quebec, which has strong restoration policies and
labour laws, “then where on Earth are we going to get these metals?”
he asks.

In other words, as long as car companies and cell phone companies
are clamoring for battery metals, Sudol sees only two options:
child miners in the DRC or rule of law in Quebec.

A small town in Northern Quebec could hold the keys to a future where electric vehicles are the norm.

A Toronto-based mining company called RNC Minerals Corporation wants to build a “battery metals” mine near Amos, Quebec, a town of less than 13,000 people that sits on the largest untouched deposit of nickel sulphide and cobalt in the world, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data cited by a company report. Continue Reading →

Modern slavery: the true cost of cobalt mining (Hermes Investment Management – January 16, 2018)


Investment capital permeates the global economy, underpinning businesses and supply chains across regions and industries. We believe that investors should not only be aware of the potential for their capital to generate returns but its impact on society and the environment. One such sustainability concern is cobalt mining.

Thousands of artisanal miners dig by hand in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Children, too. They have no industrial tools, no protective clothing, no hard hats, not even facemasks to shield toxic dust or shoes. They are searching for cobalt, the rare-earth metal powering the mobile revolution.

Cobalt is an essential component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The end product may be in your pocket, on your desk, in your garage, or even in your investment portfolio. It powers most electronic gadgets, including smartphones and laptops, and electric vehicles. Continue Reading →

Stalin’s legacy lives on in city that slaves built – archive, 1994 – by James Meek (The Guardian – December 29, 2017)

At the end of the second world war, as Europe was preparing to celebrate its victory over fascism, the Soviet authorities arrested an entire school of teenage girls from western Ukraine, named them enemies of the people, took them to an Arctic concentration camp and forced them to expend their youth in slave labour.

Half a century later Galina Skopyuk is still there. She is a prisoner of circumstances now rather than a prisoner of Stalin, but beginning her 49th winter in a land where the winters are nine months long is hard. “I’m always hoping to leave. I don’t want to die here. But I don’t have any chance,” she said.

Mrs Skopyuk is one of the few living links between the present-day city of Norilsk and the dark years of its creation, starting in 1935, when Stalin willed thousands of political prisoners hither to claw a city out of the tundra in a metal-rich volcanic crater. Continue Reading →

Norilsk, Stalin’s Siberian Hell, Thrives in Spite Of Hideous Legacy – by Robert G. Kaiser (Washington Post – August 29, 2001)

Is there any stranger human habitation on Earth than this?

In Norilsk, 200 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise for three months a year, the winter temperatures remain under 30 degrees below zero, and the air is, literally, the dirtiest on the globe. Yet there is a full-blown city of 230,000 here, whose citizens are fierce local patriots with a romantic sense of their own uniqueness.

They live in a place created by zeks, political prisoners who populated Joseph Stalin’s gulag — perhaps 100,000, or even 200,000 died in its building; the exact number is lost or buried in still-sealed archives. They were inmates in an unimaginable chamber of horrors, a community of prison camps designed to create nickel and copper industries, and to kill people. It succeeded impressively on both counts.

Modern Norilsk is populated by descendants of those prisoners, among many others, and the city remembers its horrific past. This is unusual in Russia, where forgetting is easier. On the busy streets of Norilsk in August, with pretty women on parade and children chasing each other on bikes and in-line skates, that past seems so remote as to be unreachable. Continue Reading →

Exclusive – In search of sparkle: is corporate inaction on mica condemning Indian children to death? – by Nita Bhalla (Reuters U.S. – December 19, 2017)

GIRIDIH, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Since 12-year-old Laxmi Kumari was buried alive in a mica mine eight months ago, her family’s grief has turned to despair on realizing promises by global companies to end child labor in the mines in eastern India have so far led to nothing.

Just over a year ago, a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation found children in India were dying in the depths of crumbling, illegal mines for the prized mineral that puts the sparkle in make-up and car paint – but their deaths covered up.

The discovery that seven children had died in two months alone prompted pledges by multinationals sourcing mica from India to clean up their supply chains, and state authorities vowed to accelerate plans to legalize and regulate the sector. Continue Reading →

‘Cobalt for cobalt’s sake’: Electric vehicle boom changing the equation for a mining byproduct – by Geoff Zochodne (Financial Post – November 30, 2017)

Investors have renewed their interest in an historic Canadian cobalt play amid a recent boom brought on by the adoption of electric vehicles.

Toronto-based First Cobalt Corp. has seen its stock price double in value since announcing last week that it had received shareholder backing for a three-way merger with fellow juniors Cobaltech Mining Inc. and Cobalt One Ltd. The deal includes past-producing mines near Cobalt, Ont., a town named after the metal and located approximately 500 kilometres north of Toronto.

With its acquisitions expected to close in the coming week or so, First Cobalt says it now controls 45 per cent of the land in the so-called “Cobalt Camp,” in addition to owning the only permitted cobalt refinery on the continent that can produce battery-grade materials. While the camp is still in its exploratory stage, shares of First Cobalt are up nearly 280 per cent for the year, closing at $1.47 Wednesday. Continue Reading →