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The Human Cost of the EV Revolution

The Human Cost of the EV Revolution

Mining

There’s a chance that the iPhone you’re about to get for Christmas contains cobalt mined by a six-year-old. There’s also a chance that that six-year-old has been killed or maimed in the processes of mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the lion’s share of the world’s cobalt comes from. 

Or, maybe, for those whose Christmas lists are more upscale, you’ll be driving around in a new Tesla next week, with a battery containing cobalt from that same mine. 

Our luxuries are necessarily someone else’s sacrifice – and sometimes that sacrifice is the ultimate one. 

The EV and electronics revolutions have come at a steep human cost: a boom in child labor in the DRC as child cobalt miners offer battery makers and Big Tech cheap labor.

That’s the focus of the first-ever lawsuit targeting giant tech firms as end-users of cobalt from mines in which young children have died. 

Having failed to bring down giant miners of cobalt in DRC, such as Glencore, this time lawyers are going after the end users themselves. 

The first reports about child labor in the cobalt mines in the DRC emerged several years ago. And while no one likes to hear that their Tesla, lithium battery, smartphone, or fitness tracker has cost a child his health—or worse, his life—this is the reality of cobalt mining today.

This week, International Rights Advocates filed a lawsuit against Tesla, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Alphabet for knowingly benefiting financially from child labor in the DRC. 

The suit was filed on behalf of 13 families whose children died or were seriously injured while mining for cobalt. The suit also seeks damages from miners Glencore and Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, which supply cobalt to the tech majors and to Tesla.

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