Headline and report written by Alex Crawford, Sky News, broadcast on 27 February 2017. Original report here >
This little boy is suffering. He's so lonely. His mum is dead. Meet Dorsen who works in a mine where cobalt is extracted for smartphones. There's a chance that your smartphone contains elements mined by these exploited and suffering children.
Children mining cobalt isn't new. It's been going on for years. I've heard of it before and it's so awful you believe that the powers that be - governments and corporates - will sort it out and eradicate it. They don't. Corporates utter platitudes, and they sound reassuring, but the reality is, kids like Dorsen are subjected to slave-labour, dangerous and health damaging conditions every day, if they want to eat. Corporates like Apple, Samsung and Sony are, in my opinion, uttering sound bites to make themselves feel better. It's likely, that if we don't insist that this stops, these stories of child miners will go on, decade after decade.
Dorsen is 8 years old. He's small, beaten down, malnourished, depressed, in pain and exhausted. He and his friends work hour after hour in terrible conditions. The work itself is so dangerous to their health. Lung problems. Cancer. They risk being beaten when they "under perform". Their "supervisors" are also exploited workers. Their work for the tech industry is informal. They get paid peanuts. The work is gruelling and dangerous. There is little room for patience and kindness in this industry.
In one random interview, Dorsen has been pushed into the limelight to become "the face" of child cobalt mining. He was invited to speak. He shared his misery. The journalist left. The report was aired - we watched - and we moved on with our lives. Except - we really shouldn't. We can't ignore this child. He is one of an estimated 40,000 children involved in this terrible backstory of our shiny smartphones. Apple has such a clean, wholesome, "edible" image. But not to me. Not any more. I can't digest this. Apple and others should be doing much, much more.
Dorsen says, "When I'm working here, I'm suffering. My mother, she's already dead. And I have to work all day and my head hurts me."
His friend, Richard, says, "When I wake up every morningI feel terrible knowing I have to come back here again. Everything hurts."
Imagine working 12 hours without food or rest with a migraine. And they work and work - but sometimes they don't earn enough to eat that day, or the next day. These kids aim to earn 8p a day. That's what they survive on, if they survive at all. Children die at work. They get drowned or buried in rubble. We spend more on a couple of text messages.
After watching the report, my mum and I made a donation to UNICEF who do work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The next morning, I was still haunted. How would I know that this boy, invited by global media to speak of his misery, would be helped by anyone? This is complete despair. And that's why this website has come into being. It's time to take these corporates on. They will do the minimum if left to their own devices.
It's time to call corporates and government to account. Corporates like Apple, Samsung and Sony have a chance to be heroes. Or, they can be shown to be cold hearted, ruthless users of children. We shall see.
Sky News report: Meet Dorsen news.sky.com/story/meet-dorsen
Calling corporates to account
We need accountability and a concrete plan to resolve this problem quickly. Children need rescuing from this industry. Informal miners need structure. Corporates need to understand that cobalt belongs to the Democratic Republic Congo. It is their resource and Congolese people should profit from it fairly; fair trade, safe mining practices.
Would you pay an extra £1 or $1 when you buy your next smartphone, smartwatch or laptop? This money could stop children having to work in cobalt mines.
Read the letter we've sent to companies asking for them to care >
What can you do? Plenty!
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Thank you so much.