This week we are investigating the issue of cobalt mining. This is a subject that not only you need to dig deep to find, but the information available is inadequate. If you use any electronic device, you need to read on.
Until the report written by Amnesty International was brought to their attention, the multinationals responsible were silent on the issue, as thousands of children were used. Since the report, these companies have been more vocal.
Spokespeople for Samsung say they have a “zero tolerance” 6 policy on this issue, but we are yet to see how this translates into actual action. Apple has been less co-operative, but has said “underage labor is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards” 6. Apple today is worth over $700 billion 7 so what is the excuse for them not being able to investigate the matter further. According to Afrewatch, an organisation based in the DRC monitoring this issue, “none of those companies named could independently verify where the cobalt in their products come from” 4
Knowing all of this inevitably places a degree of responsibility on our shoulders. So what can you do as a consumer?
1. Ask the question:
Change is often brought about simply by asking questions. So, start by doing that. Ask the “genius” if they actually know where and how the phones they are selling come from. Take note of their answer. The more people ask, the more it drives the big corporates to provide the answers and to take the issue seriously.
Increasingly, there is a culture of over consumption, which leads to these companies using the mines more regularly, to keep up with demand. One way of putting less people in danger is not to buy as many phones. Do you really need a new phone every time you update a phone plan or when every new model release becomes available? Melding mobile handsets and phone services together in a manner that is inseparable fuels over consumption. Consider services that separate these. For example, at SavinGreen, we know that each phone has both human and environmental costs, so we encourage BYO mobile phone plans and clearly separate mobile handset repayments from mobile phone plan services for approved customers to help reduce over consumption.
Let us know your thoughts and ideas on this subject. For more information, please go to these websites:
- CNN – Child miners face death for tech
- Amnesty – Child labour behind phone and car batteries
- MarketWatch – Your gadgets support illegal child labor in Africa
- The Guardian – Amnesty article
- The Verge – Apple Samsung child labor cobalt congo amnesty
- foxnews – Apple, Samsung, Sony accused using cobalt mined by children
- Time – Apple 700 billion
Sam Lieberman and Amanda Yu