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Frequent and unclean: electrical automobiles with little one labor in Africa

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The manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles and other supposedly environmentally friendly technologies as well as the green activists, politicians and bureaucrats who promote and support them with our taxpayers' money keep claiming that these technologies are "green". clean & # 39; and & # 39; fair & # 39 ;. Is that true? In this first edition of our new Mean and Unclean series, examines African child labor, which is cruelly used to make electric cars run.

Here are some important background points.

Cobalt is an expensive metal used in electric car batteries and costs around $ 35,000 per ton. 59% of the cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cobalt mining in the Congo is often done by children – up to 40,000 – who work in brutal and brutally unsafe conditions. A euphemism for these children is “informal” workers.

What follows is the harsh reality of kids working for cobalt to power electric vehicles.

“Yanick Kalumbu Tshiwengu, a former miner from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is fortunate enough to be alive. When he was just 11 years old, Yanick went to Kolwezi to mine cobalt. Every day he descended several meters underground into makeshift tunnels and dangerous shafts that the miners had dug without knowing whether he would see the daylight and his family again.

Accidents were common without protective clothing. Several of his friends died underground. Yanick narrowly escaped with his life twice, once when an excavator began to close the entrances to the mine shaft, blocking his escape route, and when a landslide caused a collapse. Like many of his friends, he began sniffing glue and gasoline to allay his fears, but this couldn't rule out the painful memories that continued to haunt him.

"It was a living hell," he says. “As children we were exploited and worked in very dangerous situations. We have seen things that no child should see. There was a culture of rape and violence. Girls have often been victims of rape that we couldn't prevent as children. Sometimes lives were lost for a few francs. Nothing good can ever come out of the mines, and I would love to see them all closed so that no child can have the same experience as me. "

“A research by CBS News found that child labor is used in dangerous cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mineral cobalt is used in virtually all batteries in popular devices, including cell phones, laptops, and even electric vehicles.

An Amnesty International report first revealed that cobalt mined by children ended up in the products of several companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Tesla and Samsung.

Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is so sensitive that the CBS News team would be stopped every few hundred feet and security staff would request letters and papers even though we had official permission to be there. But there were no such restrictions on the Chinese middlemen who buy the cobalt; You have free access.

In the mines, women and children help out with what is known as artisanal mining, but don't be fooled – it's not a quaint home industry. At the age of 10, children carry heavy cobalt sacks to wash them in rivers. From four onwards you can pick it out from a pile. Even those too young to work – dust-covered infants clinging to their mothers and playing on the dirty floor – spend much of the day breathing in toxic fumes.

This video shows people washing cobalt ore in a river. This crude processing technique would be unthinkable and incredibly illegal in the United States.

An international advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against some of the world's largest technology companies for the death and injury of miners in Congolese cobalt mines.

International Rights Advocates brought the case on behalf of 14 Congolese families whose children were killed or injured while mining cobalt. The metal is the main component of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power most electronic devices.

The defendants named in the lawsuit include Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Tesla and Google's parent company Alphabet.

The lawsuit accuses these companies of "knowingly benefiting from and supporting the cruel and brutal use of young children."

A tunnel in a cobalt mine collapsed, killing 63 people.The lawsuit alleges that Apple "supported and encouraged" child forced labor in cobalt mines.

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