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Tech companies sued over cobalt mine working conditions in the Congo

The plaintiffs say children were forced into dangerous jobs

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Photo (c) Adam88xx - Getty Images
Several major tech companies -- including Apple and Google -- face a lawsuit which claims they are culpable in the deaths of Congolese children engaged in cobalt mining.

The suit, filed in Washington on behalf of 14 parents and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), claims many U.S. tech giants bear responsibility because the children were killed or seriously injured while mining for cobalt used to power the companies’ devices.

The families claim the labor of their children was forced. It is the first such suit to attempt to link mine activities with rechargeable lithium batteries used in millions of products sold by Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla every year. 

Insatiable demand for cobalt

The suit alleges that the “insatiable demand for cobalt,” driven by the desire for mobile devices, has surged in the last few years and could double again by the end of 2020. 

The plaintiffs claim that several major U.S.-based tech companies aided and abetted mining companies in the Congo that exploited child labor, forcing children to work in dangerous conditions that resulted in the death of some and the injury to many more.

While the defendants have no ownership in the mines, the suit claims the defendants benefited from the mines’ operation. The plaintiffs claim their children had no option but to work in the minds under dangerous conditions because of their extreme poverty.

Microsoft said it is “committed to responsible sourcing of minerals” and that it will investigate any violations by its suppliers and will take necessary action.

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