Archive | Mining Child and Slave Labour – Historical and Current

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 →

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 →