Apple, Google (through its parent company Alphabet, Inc), Dell, Microsoft and Tesla have been named as defendants in what could be a landmark case pertaining to the use of child labour in the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The case, which is a  class complaint for injunctive relief and damages has been brought by the US based International Rights Advocates (IRA) on behalf of children injured in the mines and families whose children have died in mines. They  accuse the companies of “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel and brutal use of young children in Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) to mine cobalt.”

The DRC has faced and continues to face calamity including war, deadly outbreaks of Ebola,  debilitating corruption and instability to name but a few of the challenges. The nation is also blessed and cursed (depending on how one looks at it) with vast mineral wealth including cobalt.

Cobalt is required to manufacture the rechargeable lithium-ion battery used in all of the smart phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices many of us have come to rely on, and approximately two-thirds of the global supply of cobalt is mined in the so called “copper belt” region of Haut-Katanga and Lualaba Provinces in the DRC.