Some of the biggest tech companies in the world that include Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, Dell Technologies and even Alphabet Inc which is the parent company behind Google are being sued in relation to deaths of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
These children according to reports were being forced to work in the mining of cobalt which is a metal used in the making of computers and other tech equipment including smartphones.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 14 families in Congo by the International Rights Advocates which is a US- based human rights non-profit group.
The lawsuit includes 14 children from which 6 died due to tunnel collapses and the rest suffered life changing injuries including paralysis.
These tech companies are said to be part of a system that was forcing labor that the families are claiming eventually led to the death of 6 of these children while severely injuring others.
Terrence Collingsworth who is an attorney representing the families in this lawsuit made a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation saying:
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,
The element is used for making a variety of things including magnetic and stainless steels, alloys used in jets and gas turbines and even lithium batteries making up millions of products that sold by these companies.
Congo happens to be at the top of the list when it comes to producing Cobalt with more than half of the world’s supply being produced in the country.
According to the lawsuit, children that were part of this were as young as 6 years of age and some were paid as low as $1.50 a day while working 6 days a week. They were being forced to work in the mines due to extreme poverty and had to even leave school.
Dell was contacted for comment about the child labor lawsuit to which Dell responded that it has never sourced any operations that include child labor and has launched an investigation into the matter. Other companies from the list have however not commented about his.
Siddharth Kara who is a researcher on modern slavery happens to be an expert witness in the case. He made a statement saying:
I’ve never encountered or documented a more severe asymmetry in the allocation of income between the top of the supply chain and the bottom,
It’s that disconnect that makes this perhaps the worst injustice of slavery and child exploitation that I’ve seen in my two decades of research,
Free Walk and International Labor Organization say that currently more than 40 million people are stuck in modern slavery and this includes forced labor and even forced marriages.