Archive | Mining Child and Slave Labour – Historical and Current

Demand for Congo’s cobalt is on the rise. So is the scrutiny of mining practices. – by Sarah Katz-Lavigne (Washington Post – February 21, 2019)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Congo’s contested elections in December resulted in the country’s first electoral transfer of power, 59 years after independence. The outcome — with Félix Tshisekedi defeating the candidate backed by departing president Joseph Kabila — has been much in the news.

Cobalt is making headlines, too, along with questions about how the new president will manage resource governance in the mineral-rich country. Congo accounts for at least 60 percent of worldwide cobalt production and has about 50 percent of known global cobalt reserves.

My research in southeastern Congo suggests cobalt mining will prove an increasingly complex policy hurdle for the new president. Many Congolese rely on artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) for their incomes. Continue Reading →

Fourteen NGOs oppose LME plans to ban tainted cobalt – by Zandi Shabalala and Pratima Desai (Reuters Africa – February 7, 2019)

https://af.reuters.com/

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Fourteen non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including Amnesty and Global Witness have opposed plans by the London Metal Exchange to ban cobalt tainted by human rights abuses, a letter seen by Reuters showed.

Cobalt is a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles, a fast-growing sector of the auto industry, and in metal alloys used to make jet engines. It was singled out in LME proposals to embed responsible sourcing principles into metal brands deliverable against its contracts, which include copper and zinc.

Most of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, often from artisanal mines where several organisations have cited human rights abuses. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court to decide whether Canada’s Nevsun can be sued in Canada for actions abroad – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – January 24, 2019)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

The Supreme Court of Canada heard oral arguments on Wednesday in a historic case that could have broad legal ramifications for any domestic company that operates abroad.

At issue is whether a group of African refugees has the right to sue former Canadian base metals miner Nevsun Resources Ltd. in Canada for alleged human-rights abuses overseas. (Vancouver-based Nevsun was recently acquired by Chinese company, Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. for $1.9-billion.)

The case was launched a number of years ago in the B.C. Supreme Court by three Eritrean refugees who accused Nevsun of violating international law pertaining to forced labour, slavery and torture during the construction of its Bisha mine in Eritrea from 2008 to 2010. Continue Reading →

What did Canadian mining executives know about possible human rights violations in Eritrea? – by Scott Anderson (CBC News Fifth Estate – January 22, 2019)

https://www.cbc.ca/

Mine workers suing Nevsun Resources over allegations of forced labour, slavery, torture

For years, Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources has dismissed allegations that forced labour was used to build its mine in the repressive east African country of Eritrea.

Nevsun executives have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their Bisha mine site in a CBC interview and during an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

But company documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia last November and reviewed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate show executives at the highest level appear to have been informed of issues of forced labour at their mine site a decade ago. Continue Reading →

How Canada’s dazzling future in diamonds ended in fraud allegations – by Jennifer Wells (Toronto Star – January 14, 2019)

https://www.thestar.com/

This is not going to be a column about the manufactured consumption of diamonds. But it is going to be a column about the manufacture — the cutting and polishing — of diamonds.

The news from Tiffany & Co. of a diamond provenance initiative is welcome. Steps the company has taken as of this week — providing geographic sourcing information for individual diamonds — will be ramped up in 2020 when the New York jewelry house begins sharing the “craftsmanship journey,” as in, where those stones were turned into princess-cut bedazzlers. Do you want your diamond to be ethically sourced? Of course you do.

Some may think, brightly: Tiffany-blue ring boxes, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn. Others may think, insightfully: conflict diamonds, blood diamonds, child labour. I think, simply: Northwest Territories, squandered economic opportunity, a sprinkling of fraud. They’re all connected. Human rights abuses abroad bleed as deeply through the mining of diamonds as those kimberlite pipes that plunge beneath the Arctic surface. Continue Reading →

Canadian miner Nevsun Resources has a tangled relationship with one of the world’s most repressive regimes – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – December 29, 2018)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

The road from Eritrea’s mountain capital to the Red Sea is narrow and dangerous. It descends steeply in switchbacks and hairpin turns, dotted with stone crosses that mark the deaths of drivers who failed to navigate the hazards: rock falls, steep cliffs, wandering goats, herds of camels, troops of baboons.

Now, the mountain road has a new menace: Hundreds of massive, Chinese-made trucks are thundering in a steady procession to the sea, carrying thousands of tonnes of zinc and copper concentrate from a Canadian-owned mine and roaring perilously close to shepherds and village children along the route.

The mine’s majority owner, Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources Ltd., has been warned by its own human-rights auditor – and by the United Nations children’s agency – about the potentially lethal risks of the truck traffic on the mountain road, especially to local children. Continue Reading →

Supreme Court set to hear Nevsun Resources case on Eritrea human rights abuses – by Julius Melnitzer (Financial Post – December 27, 2018)

https://business.financialpost.com/

The future of the Canadian resource industry hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court of Canada prepares to hear a high-profile case accusing Canadian miner Nevsun Resources Ltd. of human rights abuses in Eritrea.

At the heart of the hearing, set for Jan. 23, is whether customary international law (CIL) — a fairly undefined and shifting body of law that has, to date, only been applied to sovereign states — will now apply to Canadian companies. Traditionally, Canadian courts have been loath to deal with violations of international law that have occurred abroad.

The Nevsun case could change that — an unappealing outcome for Canadian multinationals, especially resource-extraction companies who must often enter into arrangements with foreign governments regarding their exploration and development initiatives. Continue Reading →

What really powers your smartphone and electric car – by Lynsey Chutel (Quartz.com – December 8, 2018)

https://qz.com/

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery helps define our era. It powers our smartphones and electric cars, and promises a future where we’re better able to store renewable energy. It also requires lithium and cobalt, minerals that some of the world’s poorest countries happen to have in abundance.

That should be good news for all concerned, but mismanagement and graft—common in extractive industries—are making the latest mining boom looks uncomfortably like the bad old days of previous booms.

This week provided reminders of that. First, the Democratic Republic of Congo tripled its levies on cobalt, of which it has the world’s largest natural supply, in a move that could result in pricier smartphones and production slowdowns for electric-car makers. Also, HSBC released a report showing that the projected market share of electric vehicles will be smaller than first thought, due to the high price of lithium and cobalt amid soaring demand. Continue Reading →

Cobalt mining shows clean energy revolution comes at a price – by Zoe Dawson (Irish Times – December 2, 2018)

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Zoe Dawson is from Dublin and studying for a master’s degree in global affairs at New York University.

As the global transition to clean energy has progressed, demand for cobalt has rocketed. A natural metallic element, cobalt has unique properties that make it a key component in the production of batteries.

Until recently, smartphones and laptops drove demand for batteries; however, the growing market for electric vehicles and renewable-energy power storage has resulted in a surge in the demand for cobalt.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s wealthiest countries when it comes to natural resources and contains half of the world’s cobalt reserves. Despite the country’s natural mineral wealth, however, many challenges persist there. To facilitate the emerging clean and sustainable economy the world is highly dependent on a mineral produced via some of the most criticised practices, with no one being held accountable for the human-rights abuses taking place. Continue Reading →

PHOTOS: Dust And Danger For Adults — And Kids — In Bolivia’s Mines – by Jake Harper (KNPR.org – November 17, 2018)

https://knpr.org/

Working in Bolivia’s mines is a family business. That’s what Italian photographer Simone Francescangeli saw when he traveled to the city of Potosí of about 250,000 to document the daily lives of miners.

They’re part of a centuries-old enterprise to extract silver, tin, zinc and gold from the mountains. He was struck by the harsh and sometimes dangerous conditions the miners work in — and by the number of children he saw working in the mines. Some were teenagers. One youngster said he was 11 years old.

In Potosí, many children work in mines, often joining their fathers or other family members in the tunnels when they’re not in school, says Andrea Marston, a researcher at University of California, Berkeley who studies Bolivian mining cooperatives. The money they earn allows them to play a part in supporting their families. Continue Reading →

Electric car demand fueling rise in child labor in DR Congo: campaigners – by Nellie Peyton (Reuters U.S. – November 2, 2018)

https://www.reuters.com/

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Demand for electric vehicles is fueling a rise in child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, experts said this week, urging companies to take action as the industry expands.

Cobalt is a key component in batteries for electric cars, phones and laptops, and Congo provides more than half of global supply. Tens of thousands of children as young as six dig for the toxic substance in artisanal mines in the country’s southeast, without protective clothing, rights groups say.

As companies move to secure their supply of cobalt, they should also make a push to improve transparency and labor rights, said U.S.-based advocacy group Enough Project. Continue Reading →

Jewelers CAN Trace Their Gold – by Juliane Kippenberg and Jo Becker (Human Rights Watch – November 2, 2018)

https://www.hrw.org/

Gold from Conflict-Free Mines in Congo Sold in US Jewelry Stores

People in the United States will now be able to buy jewelry made with “conflict-free” gold from Zales and Kay Jewelers, two of the nation’s largest jewelry retailers.

The RAGS (Responsible Artisanal Gold Solutions) Forum announced last week the first “conflict-free” supply chain from an artisanal mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo to US retailers. This is good news – even though the amount of gold coming this way may be small.

In the past, many mainstream jewelers have understandably avoided “conflict minerals” such as gold from the Congo because of its links with violent and abusive armed groups and elements of Congolese security forces. Continue Reading →

Eliminate child labour from mica mining in Jharkhand: Kailash Satyarthi (The Indian Express – October 28, 2018)

https://indianexpress.com/

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Sunday stressed on the need to eliminate child labour from mica mining in Jharkhand and urged all stakeholders, including international brands, to become “champions in change”.

According to an official statement issued by his office here, Satyarthi said this while addressing a public event in Jharkhand, where the state government, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation have come together to eliminate child labour from mica mining.

“I earnestly call upon all stakeholders including national as well as international brands that use mica in their supply chains to become champions in change,” the statement quoted him as saying. “Today is a historic day as the government, village communities, business leaders and civil society have come together for a collective commitment for child labour free mica mining,” he said. Continue Reading →

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 →