Cobalt Mining and Slavery: The Dark Side of the Tech Industry

The rapid growth of the technology sector has brought undeniable benefits to modern life, with smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles becoming increasingly essential. However, behind the glossy screens and sleek designs, a dark underbelly of the tech industry thrives. The extraction of raw materials for these devices often involves exploitative practices, and two prime examples are cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and child labor in Chinese manufacturing plants.

Cobalt Mining in the Congo: A Modern-day Tragedy

Cobalt is a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, the power source for smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. Over 60% of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the DRC, where the mining industry is fraught with slavery and oppressive labor practices. In many instances, small-scale miners are subjected to dangerous working conditions, receiving little to no pay for their labor.

A 2016 Amnesty International report revealed that child labor is prevalent in the DRC’s cobalt mines, with children as young as seven working long hours for a meager income. The hazardous nature of cobalt mining exposes these children to life-threatening health risks, including respiratory and skin diseases.

Companies such as Apple, Samsung, Tesla, and Microsoft have faced criticism for indirectly supporting these inhumane practices through their supply chains. Though these companies claim to have responsible sourcing policies, the complex nature of their supply chains often obscures the origin of their cobalt, making it difficult to ensure ethical sourcing.

Child Labor in Chinese Manufacturing Plants

China is a major player in the global electronics manufacturing industry, producing a significant portion of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. However, the country’s rapid growth in this sector has come at a steep cost, as child labor remains a widespread issue in many of its manufacturing plants.

Reports have surfaced of underage workers being employed in factories that produce components for major tech companies, including Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Children as young as 14 have been found working in these facilities, enduring grueling hours and dangerous conditions for minimal pay.

The role of multinational corporations

Multinational corporations have a responsibility to ensure that their products are ethically sourced and manufactured. However, with the increasing demand for electronic devices, many companies have turned a blind eye to the human cost associated with their production. In some cases, these corporations have been accused of knowingly benefiting from forced labor and child exploitation in their supply chains.


The exploitation of workers and the use of child labor in the cobalt mining and electronics manufacturing industries remain a blight on the tech sector. To combat these issues, companies must commit to greater transparency and traceability in their supply chains, while governments and international organizations must work together to enforce stricter labor laws and regulations. As consumers, it is our responsibility to demand ethical and sustainable products from the companies we support, ensuring that the conveniences of modern technology do not come at the expense of human rights and dignity.






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