Sunday, 11 June 2017

Child labor still rife in Democratic Republic of Congo

Child labor still rife in Democratic Republic of Congo

11/06/2017

June 12 is the World Day Against Child Labour. The UN estimates that 168 million children are being put to work globally. Many of them are in Africa, particularly in the Congo, where cobalt mining by children is rampant.


According to the UN children's agency, UNICEF, about 40,000 children work in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For a shift of up to 24 hours underground, most earn less than $2 (1.80 euro) a day - many receive half of that.

"The working conditions in the Congolese mines are miserable," Faustin Adeye, who works with the Catholic charity Misereor told DW. "Many children are often physically ruined as a result. There are whole excavations which they dig up with their bare hands using machetes spades."
Adeye said the conditions in some of the cobalt mines located in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo were so bad that at times the children are buried alive when the mines cave in.

Many children in Congo's cobalt mines work in deplorable 
conditions

Some of the children are as young as 7 years old and many work without any protective clothing, according to the human rights organization Amnesty International.
Do multinationals care?
The coveted raw material is used for making smartphone batteries. Big corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony rely on it for their electronic gadgets.
The mineral can also be found in electric cars produced by Daimler and Volkswagen. However, these companies do not want to be associated with child labor. In December, DW asked some of them to comment on the issue.

Conflict-free smartphones (Click here to watch the video)


Daimler, one of Germany's biggest car producers, responded in writing that it required all suppliers to comply with the applicable international rules and laws. The company's guidelines on working conditions, social and ethical standards, and environmental protection went far beyond legal requirements, according to Daimler, which added that the manufacturer expects suppliers to comply with at least the minimum standards.
BMW, another German carmaker, admitted that it has used cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the production of certain batteries. The Munich-based firm announced that it would begin inspecting its suppliers to ensure that there were no human rights violations.

Apple says it introduced measures to stop using cobalt 
mined by children in Congo

In March, the US tech giant Apple reported that it wanted to stop the purchase of cobalt that had been mined by hand in the Congo.
Hard to resist
The largest cobalt deposits in the world are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Amnesty International, at least 50 percent of the world's cobalt is mined there. It is therefore impossible to rule out the possibility that cobalt from the Congo would end up with companies all over the world.
About 168 million children work worldwide. The International Labor Organization launched the International Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to draw attention to their plight. It takes place every year on June 12.
This year, the focus will be on how conflicts and disasters affect child labor. Wars and environmental catastrophes threaten human rights. In most cases, children are affected: They often lack access to education or even loses their families. As a result, they are often forced to work.

                             THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'  

Rich resources and violent opportunists

In the unstable eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, treasures like gold and tin attract opportunistic militia. The violent groups exploit people, including children, to mine for "conflict minerals." With the revenue they buy weapons to conquer more territories and perpetuate the fighting.

                   THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'

PROTECTING CITIZENS AND LEGAL MINING OPERATIONS

MONUSCO, the UN's biggest and most expensive peace-keeping mission, is working to stabilize the provinces of North and South Kivu, which lie at the center of the country's violence. Security forces patrol mining villages like Nzibira, which sits at the edge of Zola Zola, a legal cassiterite mine.

                                THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'

PAYING THE HUMAN PRICE FOR MOBILE PHONES 

Cassiterite is just one of the minerals used in mobile phones. Half of the world's production of those minerals comes from Central Africa. The DRC's export of tin, gold and other ore has been under particular scrutiny since 2010, when laws were introduced in the United States requiring listed US companies to ensure their supply chains were free from "conflict minerals".

                                  THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'

PROVING THE LEGALITY OF MINERALS

A poster in Nzibira explains how sacks of minerals need to be properly sealed and labeled by the mine inspector so their legal origin can be proven to US firms. The system, however, has many gaps. Illicit mines can simply sell their yield on the black market or smuggle their goods into a legal mine to have them packed there.

                         THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'

EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN

Despite efforts by rights groups, human rights violations remain widespread in mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Children like Esperance Furahaare, who was kidnapped and raped by militia when she was 14 years old, are common victims of exploitation and violence.

                                THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Mines, which are difficult to police, can also harm the environment and surrounding communities. At illegal mines, waste water runoff often makes its way into local water sources, polluting the supply.

                            THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'

UNCLEAR FUTURE FOR LAWS TACKLING CONFLICT MINERALS

US lawmakers are currently trying to advance a bill that would eliminate the 2010 reforms. Legislators argue that the Dodd-Frank Act has stifled economic development in the US and has not effectively addressed exploitation in Central Africa. While US companies must ensure their supplies are not conflict minerals, all they are expected to do is ask their suppliers, not supply proof or origin.

DW