Archive | Mining Child and Slave Labour – Historical and Current

Is your phone tainted by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo’s mines? – by Siddharth Kara (The Guardian – October 11, 2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/

My field research shows that children as young as six are among those risking their lives amid toxic dust to mine cobalt for the world’s big electronics firms.

Until recently, I knew cobalt only as a colour. Falling somewhere between the ocean and the sky, cobalt blue has been prized by artists from the Ming dynasty in China to the masters of French Impressionism. But there is another kind of cobalt, an industrial form that is not cherished for its complexion on a palette, but for its ubiquity across modern life.

This cobalt is found in every lithium-ion rechargeable battery on the planet – from smartphones to tablets to laptops to electric vehicles. It is also used to fashion superalloys to manufacture jet engines, gas turbines and magnetic steel.

You cannot send an email, check social media, drive an electric car or fly home for the holidays without using this cobalt. As I learned on a recent research trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this cobalt is not awash in cerulean hues. Instead, it is smeared in misery and blood. Continue Reading →

Trump threatened to suspend the ‘conflict minerals’ provision of Dodd-Frank. That might actually be good for Congo. – by Nik Stoop, Marijke Verpoorten and Peter van der Windt (Washington Post – September 27, 2018)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Most Americans think of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act as a far-reaching effort to regulate the financial services industry to prevent another global recession. But there’s a somewhat obscure provision involving Congo that the Trump administration threatened to undo.

And that might have been a good thing for Congo, since — according to our research — the provision had troubling unintended consequences and was not helping to reduce conflict, as intended.

In February 2017, President Trump threatened to suspend Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which would have required his administration to replace it with ‘more effective means.’ Although the suspension did not actually take effect, his interest in suspending the law is a reminder of a contentious piece of legislation that had noble intentions but mixed effects. Continue Reading →

Open letter to anyone who uses a smartphone, drives an electric car, or flies on a plane – by Siddharth Kara (Harvard Kennedy School/Reuters – September 18, 2018)

http://news.trust.org/

Make no mistake – the supply chain of cobalt from the Congo is smeared in blood and misery

I recently returned from a research trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where tens of thousands of children toil in abject squalor, endure pitiful penny wages, grave injury, and even death in order to mine cobalt.

Once processed, this cobalt is used in the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power our electronic devices, allow us to snap photos and videos that capture our lives, and connect us to social media. It also powers our electric vehicles and is used to build the jet engines that carry us around the world.

Companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung, Tesla, Boeing, and dozens more that buy cobalt sourced from the DRC are aware of the appalling conditions in which cobalt can be mined, yet no one appears willing to address the situation. Make no mistake – the supply chain of cobalt from the Congo is smeared in blood and misery. Continue Reading →

Smartphones, Electric Cars Keep Miners Digging by Hand in Congo–Update – by Scott Patterson and Alexandra Wexler (Wall Street Journal/Morningstar.com – September 13, 2018)

https://www.morningstar.com/

KOLWEZI, Congo — Apple Inc., Volkswagen AG and about 20 other global manufacturers found themselves on the defense when Amnesty International reported two years ago that the cobalt in some of their batteries was dug up by Congolese miners and children under inhumane conditions.

Many of the companies said they would audit their suppliers and send teams to Congo to fix the problem. Their efforts haven’t kept hand-dug cobalt out of the industry supply chain.

At a cobalt mine named Mutoshi in Kolwezi, freelance Congolese workers known as creuseurs — French for miners — could be seen in May descending underground without helmets, shoes or safety equipment. The mine’s owner is part of the global cobalt supply chain for companies including Apple and VW. Continue Reading →

Interpol rescues 85 child slaves from Sudan’s streets and gold mines – by Nellie Peyton (Reuters Africa – September 10, 2018)

https://af.reuters.com/

DAKAR, Sept 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nearly 100 human trafficking victims have been rescued in a major police operation in Sudan, including dozens of children forced to work in illegal gold mines, Interpol said on Monday.

Operation Sawiyan involved 200 Sudanese police officers who rescued 94 people, including 85 minors, from criminal networks in and around the capital, Khartoum, in an Interpol-led week-long crackdown last month, the global police organisation said.

Many of the victims were from other African countries and believed to have been travelling toward Europe when they fell into the hands of traffickers, said Tim Morris, Interpol’s executive director of police services. Continue Reading →

Blood, Sweat, and Batteries – by Vivienne Walt and Sebastian Meyer (Fortune Magazine – August 23, 2018)

http://fortune.com/

Two-thirds of the world’s cobalt, an essential ingredient in our smartphones and electric cars, comes from one of the planet’s poorest countries. All too often it is mined by children.

This story was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

MOST OF HIS NEIGHBORS are still sound asleep at 5 a.m., when Lukasa rises to begin his 12-hour workday. The slender 15-year-old, with an oval face and piercing stare, slips out of his family’s mud-brick home before dawn six days a week. Then he makes the two-hour walk from his tiny village in the southern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a government-owned mining site.

(Fortune is withholding the name of the village in order to protect Lukasa and other children.) Once at the mine, Lukasa spends eight hours hacking away in a hole to accumulate chunks of a mineral that is crucial to keeping our modern lives moving: cobalt.

By about 3 p.m., Lukasa has filled a sack with his day’s haul. He hoists the load, which can weigh up to 22 pounds, on his back and lugs it for an hour by foot to a trading depot. “I sell it to Chinese people,” he says, referring to the buyers from Chinese commodity trading companies who dominate the market in the area. Continue Reading →

Electric cars: the race to replace cobalt – by Henry Sanderson (Financial Times – August 20, 2018)

https://www.ft.com/

Manufacturers want batteries that are not dependent on metals from unstable parts of the world

In a laboratory on an industrial park an hour’s drive outside Boston, Tufts professor Michael Zimmerman is hoping a material he invented in his basement can help solve a crisis facing the electric car industry — which has inadvertently tied its fortunes to one of the poorest and least stable countries in the world.

In between his teaching, Mr Zimmerman runs start-up Ionic Materials, whose battery material could mark the future for the car industry as it races to go electric after a century of producing petrol cars. His hope is that his homegrown prototype could pave the way for a new generation of batteries that does not use cobalt, a silver-grey metal, more than 60 per cent of which is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Backed by highly respected computer scientist and investor Bill Joy, who spent years searching for the perfect battery, Ionic counts the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi carmaker alliance, Hyundai and French oil company Total among its shareholders. Continue Reading →

Congo Copper Faces Increased LME Scrutiny With Audits – by Mark Burton (Bloomberg News – August 15, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The London Metal Exchange will start requiring that copper producers which source metal from the Democratic Republic of Congo carry out independent audits to prove their material is ethically sourced, according to people familiar with the matter.

The LME is reviewing its requirements to ensure that no metal traded on the bourse has links to child labor, conflict or corruption. Copper producers that buy from Congo will be categorized as higher-risk suppliers alongside manufacturers of tin and cobalt, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the changes have not been made public.

The designation will mean copper producers could be removed from the LME’s list of deliverable brands unless a third-party auditor signs off on their sourcing standards, the people said. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court decision on Vancouver mining company could have international human rights impact, expert says – by Perrin Grauer  (StarMetro Vancouver – June 25, 2018)

https://www.thestar.com/

VANCOUVER — An upcoming decision from Canada’s top court on whether allegations of human rights abuses filed against a Vancouver mining company will go to trial in Canada could set a groundbreaking precedent, according to a human rights watchdog.

Four plaintiffs, all Eritrean refugees, allege the mining company — called Nevsun Resources Ltd. — is complicit in violations of international law norms against forced labour, slavery and torture stemming from the construction of an Eritrean mine. Sixty per cent of the venture is owned by Nevsun through subsidiaries, while the remainder is owned by Eritrean state companies.

Nevsun has wholly denied all allegations of human rights abuses at the Bisha gold mine, and argued Eritrean courts would be the appropriate place — known in legal terms as a “forum conveniens” — for the case to be heard. Continue Reading →

Carmakers and big tech struggle to keep batteries free from child labor – by Alanna Petroff (CNN Money.com – May 1, 2018)

http://money.cnn.com/

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. Continue Reading →

Daimler joins China’s Responsible Cobalt Initiative – by Yilei Sun (Reuters U.S. – April 25, 2018)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – German carmaker Daimler has joined the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, a program established under a Chinese industry body to tackle risks in the cobalt supply chain arising from artisanal mining.

Cobalt consumers are under pressure to ensure the material they use is not tainted by child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the source of about 60 percent of the world’s cobalt.

Amnesty International says about a fifth of the country’s cobalt production is mined by hand by informal miners including children, often in dangerous conditions. Daimler, owner of the Mercedes Brand, joined the RCI at the start of April, RCI Chairman Sun Lihui told Reuters. Continue Reading →

Battery makers descend on Australia, Canada cobalt developers – by Melanie Burton and Nicole Mordant (Reuters U.S. – March 19, 2018)

https://www.reuters.com/

MELBOURNE/VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Nervous Asian battery makers are turning to early-stage cobalt projects in Australia and Canada to lock in supplies of the critical battery ingredient ahead of expected shortages as demand for electric vehicles revs up.

Mine developers say interest from Japanese and Korean firms is particularly strong as they compete with rivals from China, which has built deep supply chain ties with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s top producer.

The central African country accounts for nearly two-thirds of global cobalt output and production is set to rise despite concerns over the use of child miners and rising royalties. “We are starting to see the first signs of an arms race to secure long term cobalt supplies,” said Joe Kaderavek, chief executive of Australia’s Cobalt Blue (COB.AX). Continue Reading →

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

https://www.cbsnews.com/

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)

https://www.reuters.com/

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)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

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 →