Congolese survivors sue US tech companies

Congo mining

Families of young children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been injured or killed while mining cobalt launched a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft on Dec. 15. Cobalt is used in batteries for the electronic devices that technology companies manufacture and is abundant in the Congo. The complaint, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, details the dangerous conditions in which children are working, and makes comparisons with the conditions during the 16-19th century slave trade. The impoverished children are digging with rudimentary equipment and without adequate safety precautions for USD $2-3 a day.

The complaint states the defendant companies “all have specific policies claiming to prohibit child labor in their supply chains. Their failure to actually implement these policies to stop forced child labor in cobalt mining is an intentional act to avoid ending their windfall of getting cheap cobalt mined by forced child labor that they are acutely aware of.”

The plaintiffs assert claims for forced child labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and seek relief based on unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Lead counsel International Rights Advocates issued a statement saying, “We will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent.”

From Jurist, Dec. 17. Used with permission.

Note: Mining of cobalt, coltan and other minerals in the DRC is often under the control of militias and paramilitary armies responsible for grave human rights abuses.

Photo: Julien Harneis/WikiMedia Commons