Charity | Children

Is My Phone Powered By Child Labour?

Cobalt mining

Walk into any high-end phone shop and you’ll find all the hallmarks of the luxury tech market: slick surfaces, cool lines, spotless screens.

It’s a far cry from the toxic dust that children inhale as they mine the cobalt that powers the batteries we rely on for our phones and other portable electronic devices.

These child miners, some as young as seven, live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), central Africa. Given that more than half the world’s cobalt comes from the DRC, that one fifth of it is extracted by artisanal (or informal) miners, and that around 40,000 children work in southern DRC where the cobalt is mined, there’s a chance that our phones contain child labour.

Yet phone manufacturers – global brands including Apple and Samsung – won’t tell us if their cobalt supply chains are tainted by child labour. They have a responsibility to do so –to check for and address child labour in their supply chains, setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow.

We all agree that our phones are indispensable, but we can’t dispense with the rights of the men, women and children whose labour powers our phones.

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