There is a price to pay for driving electric cars. On the one hand, emissions will drop. On the other hand, as western consumers are cocooned in a bubble of guilt-free electric car motoring another story is being written, unseen. It is the usual story of poverty, struggle, and corruption. This is the currency of new green technology and requires one to be willfully ignorant of this Dickensian-era exploitation.
Tesla is among a group of high-profile tech companies being sued for the use of cobalt extracted from mines in Dr. Congo. The central African country produces 60 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt. The rare earth mineral is refined to produce lithium-ion batteries that not only power electric cars but also power smartphones, laptops, etc.
The International Rights Advocates is leading the class action lawsuit on behalf of 14 Congolese families. Tesla, Apple, Microsoft and Google are accused of having knowledge of cobalt – used in their products – has been extracted from mines where child labor is in use.
The lawsuit has been filed in the US and accuses companies such as Tesla of having specific knowledge that child labor could be in use during the cobalt extraction process. The lawsuit argues that the associated tech companies did little to regulate their supply chains and therefore profited from exploitation.
Congolese families have accused Chinese mining companies, Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt and US mining giant Glencore of enforcing child labour. The companies own minefields in Dr. Congo where child miners are reported to have been buried alive or suffered injuries due to tunnel collapse.