Amnesty International has accused Apple, Samsung, and others of not checking whether the materials used in its batteries are mined using child labour, BBC News reports.
The report, which interviewed nearly 90 people, focuses on the Democratic Republic of Congo and found children as young as seven were being used to mine cobalt, one of the key components in lithium-ion batteries, which later end up in phones made by Samsung, Apple, Sony, and Microsoft.
The DRC produces over 50% of the world’s cobalt, according to the report, and the mining of the material causes long-term health risks. Over 80 miners have died underground between September 2014 and December 2015.
One child that Amnesty International interviewed said that he would “spend 24 hours down in the tunnels” at a time. “I arrived in the morning and would leave the following morning,” he said.
Apple told the BBC that “underage labour is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards.” The company said it conducts rigorous audits and has funded homes, schools, and the wages of workers.
Samsung told the BBC it had a “zero tolerance policy” towards child labour. The company said it conducted regular tests to check that no child labour was being used.
Sony told the BBC that “we are working with the suppliers to address issues related to human rights and labour conditions at the production sites, as well as in the procurement of minerals and other raw materials.”
Alongside technology companies, the report also found that the same cobalt was making its way into car batteries used by Daimler and Volkswagen.
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