Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla have urged a federal judge to toss a proposed class action seeking to hold them accountable for using cobalt mined by young Congolese children in their lithium-ion batteries, telling the court they have no control over the mines, reports Law360 (a subscription is required to read the entire article).
Last year Apple was among the tech giants sued by International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates) — which “promotes human rights and corporate accountability through legal advocacy and capacity building” — for “aiding and abetting extreme abuse of children mining cobalt in DRC. In December 2019 the group filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of 14 plaintiffs who are either guardians of children killed in tunnel or wall collapses while mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) or children who were maimed in such accidents.
The DRC has the world’s largest deposits of cobalt, an essential element of rechargeable lithium-ion battery in products made by all tech and electric car companies. IRAdvocates say the tech boom has caused an explosion in demand for cobalt, but in one of the most extreme contrasts imaginable, cobalt is mined in the DRC under extremely dangerous stone age conditions by children paid a dollar or two a day to supply cobalt for the expensive gadgets made by some of the richest companies in the world.
The lawsuit names Apple, Alphabet (Google), Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla as defendants. Plaintiffs assert claims for forced child labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. Plaintiffs also seek relief based on common law claims of unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.