A U.S. human rights and legal advocacy group filed a lawsuit against tech giants Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla for aiding and abetting extreme abuse of children mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), according to media reports.
The International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates) on behalf of 14 families in the D.R.C. accused these companies of having helped and encouraged child labor in the cobalt mines in the Central African country.
The DRC has the world’s largest mineral deposits of cobalt, an essential element of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in many tech products as well as in electric car companies.
"We will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent. In my 35 years as a human rights lawyer, I've never seen such extreme abuse of innocent children on a large scale. This astounding cruelty and greed need to stop," IRAdvocates quoted Terry Collingsworth, the plaintiffs' lead counsel, as saying.
The plaintiffs are asserting claims for "forced child labor" in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, IRAdvocates said in a statement, adding that they sought relief due to "unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress."
The Plaintiffs' legal team includes two renowned researchers and experts on forced child labor, Siddharth Kara and Roger-Claude Liwanga.
"This lawsuit represents the culmination of several years of research into the horrific conditions of cobalt mining in the DRC," said Kara.
Children work up to 12 hours a day in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between one and two dollars a day, Amnesty International said in a report in 2016.
In 2014, approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across the southern DRC, many of them mining cobalt, Amnesty International quoted UNICEF as saying.
For the last 20 years, the eastern Congo has seen a number of conflicts break out over ethnic and land disputes, control of mineral resources and rivalries between neighboring states.
Some rebel groups have put aside their political demands as they are mostly involved in mineral trafficking in the eastern part of the country.