Archive | Mining Child and Slave Labour – Historical and Current

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 →

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

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

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)

https://uk.reuters.com/

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)

https://www.cnbc.com/

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 →