Child labour powers your smartphone batteries?

New Delhi: In the modern era, where everything comes in silver wrappings and technology leads the way, it’s often too easy to forget what it takes to bring these gizmos and gadgets into the market.

The glamour of shop displays often covers up the dark lives of the children who live in the quarries and carry bags of rocks from narrow mines to the land of the light.

In it’s report titled, ‘This is what we die for: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in Cobalt’, Amnesty International has revealed the stark reality of what goes into the making of smartphone batteries globally.

According to the report, major electronic brands around the world are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child labourers has not been used in their 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) and investigates the 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, who claim to supply technology and car companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Daimler and Volkswagen.

“It is a major paradox of the digital era that some of the world’s richest, most innovative companies are able to market incredibly sophisticated devices without being required to show where they source raw materials for their components,” said Emmanuel Umpula, Afrewatch, Executive Director.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produces 50% of the world’s cobalt and CDM mines nearly 40% of its cobalt from DRC. Miners working in these areas not only face the risk of long-term health damage but also the risk of fatal accidents.

At least 80 artisanal miners died underground in southern DRC between September 2014 and December 2015 alone, while the true figure remains unknown.

Children worked for up to 12 hours a day, in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between 1$- 2$ a day without any basic safety equipment likes gloves and masks.

The report further states that while many of these multinationals have zero-tolerance policy for child labour, they are failing to address human rights risks arising in their supply chain.

Though many reports have been published and much has been said about the global menace of child labour, yet it continues to thrive in various parts of the world.

Will another report make any difference or will these poor hapless souls vanish into nothingness, remains a thing to see.

(Image courtesy: Amnesty International)

Edited by Shweta Ganjoo

News24 Bureau