Amnesty International: Apple and others failing on child labor checks

Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung and Sony, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child labourers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published today.

The report, This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt, traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children as young as seven and adults work in perilous conditions.

“The glamourous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” said Mark Dummett, Business & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International, in a statement. “Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products.”

The report documents how traders buy cobalt from areas where child labour is rife and sell it to Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd (Huayou Cobalt).

Amnesty International’s investigation uses investor documents to show how Huayou Cobalt and its subsidiary CDM process the cobalt before selling it to three battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea. In turn, they sell to battery makers who claim to supply technology and car companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Daimler and Volkswagen.

Amnesty International contacted 16 multinationals who were listed as customers of the battery manufacturers listed as sourcing processed ore from Huayou Cobalt. One company admitted the connection, while four were unable to say for certain whether they were buying cobalt from the DRC or Huayou Cobalt. Six said they were investigating the claims. Five denied sourcing cobalt from via Huayou Cobalt, though they are listed as customers in the company documents of battery manufacturers. Two multinationals denied sourcing cobalt from DRC.

Crucially, none provided enough details to independently verify where the cobalt in their products came from.

Read more in the full article here.

Source: Amnesty International

MacDailyNews Note: Apple’s Supplier Responsibility information is here.

Every year, Apple issues a progress report with the results of the previous year’s audits and corrective actions. Apple’s 2015 Progress Report is here.

Apple COO: We take the heat on child labor because we work to rout it out – January 7, 2016
Apple supplier audit tallies labor-rights violations – February 13, 2014
Apple confirms suppliers use conflict-free minerals – February 13, 2014
Apple fires supplier over child labor violations – January 25, 2013
What happens when Apple finds a child making your iPhone – March 7, 2014


  1. Hit piece.

    I am not saying Apple isn’t getting child labor cobalt, but at the same time, you could ask, who isn’t getting this cobalt? The likelyhood is that no one can prove they aren’t.

    Instead of hitting product manufacturers, maybe this go around we should be putting pressure on Congo or the mine owners. Why? Because just like blood diamonds these guys are getting really good at “laundering” source materials. No matter how hard Apple and other companies try, they can’t prevent this kind of thing, without stopping production.

    They ask, where does this come from? They get documents, this is a legitimate source. They find out it’s a lie, go on to the next source, and it’s the same.

    The only way they can prevent child labor, is to get into the mining business. Simply Apple needs to be a ground to consumer manufacturer, and it’s a bit ridiculous.

    1. The article isn’t really a it piece. It doesn’t single out Apple; it clearly opens with “Major electronic brands, including Sony, Samsung and Apple” (highlighting three biggest, but saying most of them).

      Yes, you can try to figure out how to go to the mine owners of Congo, but this is rather complicated, prolonged and ineffective way. Most efficient and expedient way to address these issues has historically been proven to be pressure on companies that do business with these offenders. You convince Sony, Samsung and Apple to put conditions in contracts and send inspections to enforce these conditions, and the change is instant and effective. It worked for Korean labourers of the 70s, it is working today for Chinese labour, and it will certainly work tomorrow for Congolese miners.

      1. Predrag – I don’t know why you write, “Sony, Samsung and Apple” – twice.
        Above it says, “Apple, Samsung and Sony”, and then “Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony”.

        As usual, the company that probably does more than all other electronics companies combined is put as the #1 offender… and, in many other articles of course, the only offender. Tiresome.

    2. Some of these ideas will be a very unpopular but if you really want to put a stop to child labor in Africa then:

      1. Start by getting intel on the ground through bribery, intimidation, coercion, and threat of exposure – just like the CIA. In fact the CIA would be perfect for this job. Find out who directly organizes and profits from child labor.

      2. Then start naming and shaming. Stop playing nice with these guys. These government and industry leaders (gangsters and thugs to be more accurate) deserve neither our respect nor our silence.

      3. Continue to name companies like Apple and Microsoft that indirectly benefit from these commodities. It’s an uncomfortable spotlight to be in, which should prompt them to take action. These companies have vast resources and may be able to influence their suppliers to change their ways.

      4. Bombard these offending dictatorships with radio and TV broadcasts naming these individuals. Use these broadcasts to educate the population about human rights, democracy, and the rule of law while including popular entertainment programming to keep them tuned in.

      5. Institute government bans on all trade in these commodities with these regimes until they can demonstrate proof that child labor is no longer used.

      6. If all else fails then remove these fowl individuals from the scene. Make them disappear without a trace. Special forces can do it. Nasty and controversial I know. But other thugs will soon get the message scurry away.

      1. OK. That last one was a bit extreme and I’m not really advocating it. All I meant to say is that many of these gangsters and thugs will not go easily. Without the implied threat of force it may not be possible to completely wipe out child labor.

          1. You are making a way to stop child exploitation by not doing business with a criminal government, sound so awful.

            My point was, if you can’t solve the problem, internationally, you take your business elsewhere, like home.

            I think, people have to want to be whatever it is you ask of them. You have to be willing to walk away for you to have any impact.

            But I guess it’s not that easy.

  2. I thought Amnesty International was an organization that had something to do with political prisoners and the such. Have they lost their mandate and started picking up loose issues along the way to keep pumping money from their benefactors?

    I am all against child labour even though I washed dishes at a restaurant more than 8 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week when I was 13 while still going to high school and pulling in A’s and B’s.

  3. If Apple is using so are Tesla, Samsung and everyone else. US allows child labor on farms. I was 6 y.o. and making 5 cents an hour in 1950 and 15 years making 50 cents and hour in 1958 and don’t regret a minute of it.

  4. I note that Amnesty’s report show the potential Congo Dongfang Mining supply chain, which may or may not be the same as the actual supply chain.

    As usual in reports of this nature, they ensure that Apple is prominently mentioned, but the details about Apple’s possible involvement seem rather scarce. They show a link through three suppliers from Apple back to CDM, but do any other companies supply cobalt to these companies or is their entire supply solely from CDM?

    If Amnesty have reliable evidence linking Apple to cobalt mined by child labour, then I have no doubt that Apple will put a stop to it, but I see nothing in their report other than a vague implication.

  5. Although I see the point on child labor, I am also one to see beyound major corporations as the sole user of child labor. I will agree with various levels of destructive practices that harm both child and adult is unacceptable. However, Amestiy International must also be willfully using child labor to obtain this information. If in any way they use or have used someone, method, or equipment to obtain these results without checking it supply chain to ensure no child labor was used in association- are they not also responsible to ensure complete separation and accountability? I would like to see there accountability report on all venues and equipment, including batteries, that helped obtain this data.
    Then again, realistic, accountability by any entities is impossible even by the most well intentioned angles. Thus, I would have to say they also used child labor to whether they intended to or not and should supply proof in compliance from within there organization and solicite outside source(s) to ensure strict coherence. Then again, I would expect them to say they had no intent in doing so or it is cost prohibitive to do or that is is impossible to verify all information. That would be my single point- you can not verify all information in such a diverse and global manufacturing environment.

  6. Children in third world nations suffer more than children in first world nations. Often, these children must work to support their families to alleviate the burdensome effects of poverty and government corruption. Who is Amnesty International to stop these children from helping their families? What has Amnesty International done to reform government practices, halt corruption, and provide charitable relief. Nothing, that’s what.

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