Cobalt Children of DR Congo
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Amnesty International's report: “THIS IS WHAT WE DIE FOR” is horrifying. Your smartphone may well contain cobalt mined by “unofficial” workers, including children. What can we do to stop this? There is a solution.

This website is inspired by #Dorsen, featured in Alex Crawford's Sky report. There is no affiliation.

Quick fact check:
  1. This "unofficial" mining has been going on for years.
  2. Corporates profit from the labour of unofficial miners, including children.
  3. The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo does not enforce laws to protect Congolese workers or children. The regime is inadequate and corrupt.
  4. Corporates may say they have zero-tolerance to child labour, but not one corporate surveyed by Amnesty International provided any information on whether these policies were implemented in
    relation to the DRC cobalt supply chain.

What Amnesty International says in its report: This is what we die for

Companies have a responsibility to mitigate and take corrective measures for the victims if they have failed to respect human rights at any point during their operations... If human rights abuses have occurred at any point in the supply chain, the company must, in cooperation with other relevant actors, such as its suppliers and national authorities, take action to remediate the harm suffered by the people affected.

Read report >

Read the letter sent to companies

Dear Corporate CEOs

I am writing to you about a boy called Dorsen. Dorsen is small for his age. He’s eight, and works twelve hours a day as a labourer in a Congolese cobalt mine. He is one of many thousands of children...
Read more

The responses of companies...

The letter went out Saturday 18 March 2017. How long will it take them respond, and what will they say?


Let’s make this personal. Meet Dorsen. He's 8. He mines cobalt for your smartphone. Works for as little as 8p or 10¢ a day.

Please watch this short film

Take another look at this boy

Dorsen works a twelve hour day with a bad headache. Still love your smartphone?

Dorsen, child miner
Image © Sky News. Alex Crawford's report: Meet Dorsen who mines colbalt to make your smartphone work.

Here's a question for you. Are you OK with children working 12 hours a day in life threatening conditions for your smartphone, laptop or camera?

No? Then let's rally for these kids. As consumers, we can stick together and insist something is done. There is a solution.

We are asking companies to give consumers the choice to pay more at the point of sale in the form of a donation, or by purchasing something extra (a lapel pin, a badge, a case marked #Dorsen #conflictminerals #DRCongo – endless possibilities) or by purchasing goods branded for the purpose of raising funds for Congolese welfare. Funds raised could be directed to UNICEF, or on the ground field workers.

The money will support children to be excluded from labour and provide for their welfare: food, education, health.

If sufficient funds are raised, money can be invested in artisanal mines promoting ethical and safe practice, equipment and a living wage.

Sign the petition to help Dorsen

Read our letter sent to these companies so far: Huayou Cobalt, Samsung, LG Electronics, Doro, Archos, Apple, Acer Inc., Blackberry, Google Pixel, Microsoft, Lenovo, Nokia, Sony, Vodafone, Dell, HP Inc. Volkswagen, Daimler. Read more

Not convinced? Why should the consumer get involved?

The DR Congo government and corporates, to their shame, are doing little to nothing. They are making excuses, playing semantics - anything to dodge responsibility. There is corruption, exploitation and greed.

Do we really want to own "stuff" that's come from human suffering? Exploiting and abusing children and artisanal miners is NOT OK.

The suffering is real and it goes on every day.

Cobalt. Do we really need it?
Fact checker

Our need for cobalt will increase and we use a lot of it already.

Cobalt is needed to make rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power most electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops, etc. Cobalt is contained in super alloys used in jet engines.

More than 50% of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo: 30% is formally mined, 20% is informally mined by children and artisanal miners.

More than 50% of the Congo's cobalt is exported to China. The largest Chinese firm buying this cobalt is Huayou Ltd. who espouse "integrity". This is ironic.

Congolese mines were bankrupted by the Congolese government. Jobs were lost. There has been war and depression. Unemployed miners were told to dig for themselves.

If people don't mine cobalt (including children) they starve.

Mining cobalt is dangerous. Serious and fatal health issues result. Serious accidents occur resulting in injury and death.

Unofficial mines have no proper equipment. Tunnels are unsupported and often collapse. It is a hellish, dangerous environment.

Cobalt is a very valuable resource but the unofficial Congolese miners are not receiving the true value of it. There is abject poverty.

There are an estimated 40k children working in 110 - 150k artisanal mines (UNICEF, 2014). Children are expected to work long hours - up to 12 a day, or longer. They can earn as little as 8p a day, or nothing.

The work is extremely physical. Children go without food and only eat when they are paid.

Child labour is illegal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it's not enforced. The President, Joseph Kabila, is ineffective.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a lack of infrastructure and deep rooted corruption.

Corporates want cobalt, but, seemingly, they don't want to take the trouble to invest, trade fairly or respect human rights.

Reality check

Artisanal workers, adults and children, are vulnerable and easily expolited and abused. They suffer rampant human rights abuses.

Governments and corporates are, in reality, doing nothing to stop human rights abuses. What are we supposed to do then? Wait a few years until they get their act together?

If you're charitable, you may want to donate to help these people. Unfortunately, Individuals can't raise enough money to stop child labourers working in cobalt mines and assist artisanal miners to work in safety and get a decent wage. Corporates can organise this quickly and effectively - and that's what they should do.

Here's the Congolese cobalt mining cycle in a nutshell. Everyone gets a fair deal except the child labourers and the artisanal miners

Magnify Click on image to magnify

Fact checker

20% of the cobalt bought from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is mined by children and artisanal miners, who extract it from the earth.

Adult miners then sell directly to licensed buying houses. Children sell their minerals to adult miners or small scale traders. The children routinely get ripped off.

These licensed trading houses then sell to a number of larger companies, which operate smelters and export the processed ore.

One such company is Congo Dongfang Mining International SARL (CDM). This company is a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of China-based Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company Ltd (Huayou Cobalt), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cobalt products.

Huayou Cobalt, China, is more than aware of child abuses in Congolese cobalt mines, and the dangerous conditions in artisanal mines. However, the Huayou Cobalt motto is: Integrity Innovation Responsibility Learning Enthusiasm. They continue to buy cobalt mined by children.

Huayou Cobalt further smelt and process the cobalt, then sell to lithium-ion battery component manufacturers.

The batteries end up in products like: smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, cameras, cars.

Consumers buy these high-tech, high-end products with their terrible backstory of human rights abuses and child labour.

Mining cobalt: there are laws, due diligence and human rights. Sounds good, but these safeguards are completely ineffective. In fact, they're useless.
Reality check

International laws to protect people from human rights abuses are being ignored by practically everyone in the chain.

"Very few companies that are purchasing cobalt, or products containing cobalt, are taking steps to meet even the most basic due diligence requirements."*

Artisanal cobalt mining can easily be described as slave labour.

*Source: Amnesty International report, January 2016.

Comment: No one will take responsibility. It will be years until there is forward movement, if at all. Children will continue to labour. Health will be damaged. Accidents will continue to injure and kill. Misery, misery, misery will continue. These chaotic circumstances are intolerable and unsustainable. If a steady supply of cobalt is needed, we are not going about it the right way.

This government / corporate cycle of denial forces us, as consumers, to participate in human rights abuses. #shameonthem

Reality check

We, the consumers, are unwittingly roped in to a cycle of human rights abuses almost every time we buy equipment containing a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

We, the consumers, rarely have a way to know "good" products from "bad" products.

The safeguards of law and guidance in place to prevent human rights abuses are ignored as follows:

Law of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

State workers' rights are enshrined in law. There are directives on working hours, salaries, health and safety. The law bans children from employment under the age of 16. The President, Joseph Kabila, is not looking after the Congolese people.

Joseph Kabila


President Joseph Kabila has not enforced the rights of state workers and children.
President Joseph Kabila has only 20 officers to monitor 120k artisanal mines.
There is widespread corruption, violence and abuse.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Due Diligence


(OECD) provides guidance for how Due Diligence should be carried out. It's widely adopted. Purpose: to ensure that companies are not profiting from, or contributing to, serious human rights abuses in the mines that they source from, or anywhere else along their supply chain.

OECD guidance is not legally binding and is therefore useless.
Website :

Companies must be able to demonstrate that they source their minerals responsible.

Companies cannot demonstrate this.

World law

Currently, no country legally requires companies to publicly report on their cobalt supply chains. This is very convenient for corporates: it enables them to enrich themselves and their shareholders by exploiting children and unofficial workers. And so, the cycle of abuse continues.

Nothing in place to protect artisanal cobalt miners.

Examples of corporate responses to Amnesty International's simple question: "Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?"

Answers range from dismissive, to vague, to deflective. None show accountability. Remember: child labour in Congolese mines has been going on for years and all these businesses know about it.

Fact checker

More than 50% of Congolese cobalt (20% of which is mined by children and artisanal miners) ends up being processed by Huayou Cobalt Ltd. in China. Huayou Cobalt espouse "integrity, responsibility and learning" as their corporate values.

The fact that cobalt is mined by artisanal miners in desperately unsafe conditions, and the fact that this process is supported by children who suffer and are exploited, has been documented for years and is well known to all parties involved in the trade of cobalt.

Huayou Cobalt
Huayou Cobalt
Huayou Cobalt Co., Ltd.
ADD:18 Wu Zhendong Road, Tongxiang Economic Development Zone, Zhejiang, China

Huayou Cobalt, smelts and processes cobalt from Congolese children and artisanal miners.

Corporate cultural concept:

"Integrity Innovation Responsibility Learning Enthusiasm"

Reality check:

Lack of accountability for cobalt mined by child labourers and artisanal miners.

Apple Inc Apple Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
United States of America

Annual turnover:
US$233,715,000,0001 for fiscal year ended 26 September 2015

Annual net profit:
US$53,394,000,0002 for fiscal year ended 26 September 2015

Amnesty International asks:
Q. Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?

Response: Currently under evaluation.

Microsoft Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
WA 98052-6399
United States of America

Annual turnover:
US$93,580,000,00013 for fiscal year ended 30 June 2015

Annual net profit:
US$12,193,000,00014 for fiscal year ended 30 June 2015

Amnesty International asks:
Q. Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?

Response: Company is unable to say “with absolute assurance” whether or not cobalt in its products originates in Katanga in the DRC.

Details: “Tracing metals such as cobalt up through multiple layers of our supply chain is extremely complex...Tracking the origin of the cobalt metal in [the different compounds used in Microsoft products] to the precise mining area is extremely challenging. Due to our supply chain complexity and the in-region co-mingling of materials, we are unable to say with absolute assurance that any or none of our cobalt sources can be traced to ore mined in the Katanga region. To create such a tracing mechanism would require a large degree of vertical and cross-industry collaboration.”

Sony Sony
1-7-1 Konan
Tokyo, -- 108-0075

Annual turnover:
Yen 8,215,880,000,00023 for fiscal year ended 31 March 2015

Annual net profit:
Yen -125,980,000,00025 for fiscal year ended 31 March 2015
(US$-1.1 bn26)

Amnesty International asks:
Q. Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?

Response: Company “takes this issue seriously” and has been conducting a fact finding process, and “so far, we could not find obvious results that our products contain cobalt originated from Katanga in the DRC. We will continue the assessment and pay close attention to this matter.”

Samsung SDI Samsung SDI
150-20 Gongse-ro
South Korea

Annual turnover:
Korean Won 5,474,221,641,00019 for year ended 31 December 2014
(US$ 5,012,920,00020)

Annual net profit:
Korean Won -80,314,437,00021 for year ended 31 December 2014

Amnesty International asks:
Q. Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?

Response: Company states that it is “impossible for us to determine whether the cobalt supplied to Samsung SDI comes from DRC Katanga’s mines.”

“The corporate policy of Samsung SDI prohibits the use of minerals originated from conflict-affected areas such as the DRC. Thus, the company conducts yearly investigations on our suppliers about the use of concerned minerals and examines the refiners of 3TG, banned under US SEC’s conflict minerals rules. Adding to that, the company investigated the country of origin of cobalt which is not on the current list of conflict minerals. However, in reality, it is very hard to trace the source of the mineral due to suppliers’ nondisclosure of information and the complexity of the supply chains.”

LG Chem Ltd LG Chem Ltd
LG Twin Towers,128

Annual turnover:
Korean Won 22,577,830,000,00051 for year ended 31 December 2014

Annual net profit:
Korean Won 854,025,000,00053 for year ended 31 December 2014
(U $782,058,00054)

Amnesty International asks:
Q. Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?

Response: Company confirmed that cobalt from Katanga (DR Congo) is in its product.
Company stated that “We requested our suppliers of cathode materials to confirm whether they used cobalt originating in Katanga in the DRC, and one of our 2nd-tier suppliers, Zheijiang Huayou Cobalt Co., Ltd. (“Huayou Cobalt”), has confirmed that their product contains cobalt originating in Katanga in the DRC.”

“We are discussing whether there is a need for us to conduct our own inspection on the cobalt mining areas in Katanga, together with a 3rd-party inspector. If the risk of human rights violations is confirmed to be very high and serious through the inspection, we will consider taking a wide range of effective actions to stop the violations, such as suspending or terminating business with those suppliers who procure cobalt from such mines.”

Microsoft Volkswagen
Brieffach 1998
D-38436 Wolfsburg

Annual turnover:
€202,458,000,00035 for year ended 31 December 2014

Annual net profit:
€11,068,000,00037 for year ended 31 December 2014

Amnesty International
Q. Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC?

Response: “To our best knowledge, the cobalt in our batteries does not originate from the DRC."

Corporate responses to Amnesty Internation question: Does cobalt in the company’s products originate in the DRC? "This is what we die for!: Human rights abuses in the DR of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt.
Amnesty International, Published January 2016


We, the consumer, need to act. We need to direct these companies to impose a Care Charge on the products containing Congolese cobalt and direct these funds to stop child labour in artisanal mines, help and rehabilitate children, and organise artisanal miners to safe practice and fair trade.

Are you in? Yes or no? Please sign the petition.

Sign the petition to help Dorsen

Thank you so much.

No apathy

How to help #Dorsen and children like him
Did you know that people who take action are less likely to suffer from depression?

You could donate...
When children earn as little as 8p a day, every penny helps
Buy something from our shop: 100% goes to help Congolese children


No help offered from these companies: Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Daimler, Vodafone, Volkswagen, Lenovo. They gave standard "brush-off" responses. Apple claims they lead the industry!
CEO Rajeev Suri, Nokia
These companies didn't even bother to respond to our letters
Cobalt Children, 2017. Consumers and Corporates know it's wrong for children to mine cobalt.
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