Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla are all rejecting responsibility for the use of child labor in cobalt mines for lithium-ion batteries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tech-giants are arguing that since they don’t own the mines, and use a supplier, there is no way to prove any connection between the children and its products.
As Law360 reports:
The tech giants told a D.C. federal court in a joint motion to dismiss Tuesday that although they “strongly condemn” the conditions described by more than a dozen Doe plaintiffs, the entities responsible for the labor violations are multiple degrees away from the companies on the global supply chain.
Because the tech companies don’t own the mines and there is no way to prove the cobalt in their products came from a certain mine, the suit must be dismissed, the tech companies argued. A multi-tier global supply chain makes it so that by the time they purchase the cobalt, it is mixed with materials from several mines, making it impossible to know for sure where it originated, according to the motion.
The case being brought forward to the companies are a group of parents of children who were killed in tunnels or damages during mining, two children who were also injured are included in the plaintiffs. The group is aiming to represent tens of thousands of children who are reportedly working as miners in the DRC. As the Guardian reported in December of 2019:
Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by human rights firm International Rights Advocates on behalf of 14 parents and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The lawsuit, which is the result of field research conducted by anti-slavery economist Siddharth Kara, accuses the companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children who they claim were working in cobalt mines in their supply chain.
The families and injured children are seeking damages for forced labour and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.Guardian
The group is bashing the tech giants for their “brutal exploitation” in the country “fueled by greed, corruption, and indifference to a population of powerless, starving Congolese people.” The plaintiffs are looking to invoke the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which requires a venture to “establish liability under the law,” the companies are arguing that a global supply chain is not a venture.