Apple, Dell, Google, Microsoft, and Tesla are in the midst of a lawsuit involving child exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The lawsuit uncovers practices that go against child labor laws and have the potential to kill or seriously injure more children.
The International Rights Advocates, a human rights organization, initiated a federal class-action lawsuit against the five tech giants, accusing them of exploiting children in their profit-seeking efforts to acquire cobalt. The metallic element is used in the production of lithium batteries, making it of prime value to tech companies.
The suit was filed on behalf of 14 children, six of whom were killed during their efforts to mine cobalt. Attorneys argue that Congolese children — barely old enough to attend elementary school — have been employed as full-time cobalt miners, where they are exposed to hazardous conditions and risk life-threatening injuries or death. As reported by ABC, the lawsuit suggests that the tech giants were aware of the child labor and risks associated with mining, but did not intervene in a regulatory capacity.
“The families are seeking compensation for the alleged forced labor, unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” according to the ABC report.
These tragedies are further compounded by poverty in the region, causing many families to pursue all avenues available to produce income.
The fact that all five companies are a part of the Responsible Members Initiative places more pressure on them to be partners in accountability for cobalt mining efforts. Google, Dell, and Apple — who all have policies against the exploitation of minors — have issued statements to ABC News denouncing child labor; Microsoft and Tesla have not yet done so.