A civil lawsuit has been filed in a federal court in Washington DC against Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Tesla, Microsoft, and Dell. They are accused of exploiting child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five children who were killed and 11 who were injured working in the mines of the DRC. They were aged between 13 and 17 when the incidents occurred.
The companies were part of a system of forced labor that allegedly led to the death and serious injury of the children, according to the complaint.
Images in the filed court documents showed children with disfigured or missing limbs.
Six of the 14 children in the case were killed in tunnel collapses, and the others suffered life-altering injuries, including paralysis.
Child miners work for $2-3 a day “under Stone Age conditions for paltry wages and at immense personal risk,” the lawsuit said.
It also alleged that the US tech giants know and “have known for a significant” amount of time that child workers are used in the “dangerous” mines where the cobalt, which ends up in their products, originates.
“These companies – the richest companies in the world, these fancy gadget-making companies – have allowed children to be maimed and killed to get their cheap cobalt,” Terrence Collingsworth, an attorney representing the families, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
More than half of the world’s cobalt is produced in the DRC.
The mineral is an essential part of lithium batteries which are used in almost all of the companies’ products.
Global demand for cobalt is expected to increase at 7 percent to 13 percent annually over the next decade, a study by the European Commission shows.
More than 40 million people have been estimated to be captive in modern slavery, which includes forced labor and forced marriage, according to Walk Free and the International Labour Organization.