The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The price of cobalt is too high

Child+labor+in+mines
Child labor in mines

Black Friday is quickly approaching, and what does this mean for American spendthrifts? Deals on electronics, of course. However, before buying the new computer or smartphone, consider how the device’s battery came to function effectively.
The cobalt used in the device’s battery may have been extracted by one of the supposed 40,000 Congolese child laborers used to obtain the element for companies, such as the Chinese cobalt company Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, which supplies to larger corporations.
Alex Crawford of Sky News spoke with one of the child laborers in the Congo named Dorsen, who is only 8 years old. He described his inability to eat for two days, and how he could not even afford to buy shoes with his daily 12-hour shifts.
Crawford also explained children are paid around eight pence a day, which converts to around 11 U.S. cents, and discovered children as young as 4 years old extracting cobalt.
Amnesty International made the accusations of the use of child labor last year, but many companies are failing to release the names of their cobalt suppliers, or even try and amend their wrongdoings.
According to Amnesty International, Apple was the first to address the accusations, but companies such as Microsoft, Lenovo and Tesla have been slow to respond. With increasing electronic innovation and demand for these products, so rises the demand for cobalt required for the batteries.
According to Henry Sanderson and Chloe Cornish of Financial Times, prices of cobalt have skyrocketed since the development of more eco-friendly cars.
“Demand for cobalt is rising rapidly as the world’s largest carmakers launch mass-market electric vehicles that use the metal in their batteries. Cobalt prices have more than doubled over the past year and focus on the supply chain has also grown,” Sanderson and Cornish said.
As a result, the impoverished Democratic Republic of Congo has been targeted to acquire desperate individuals who will mine cobalt and risk their lives for next to nothing. It seems as the worth of materials skyrockets, the worth of human life takes a nosedive.
According to Todd C. Frankel of The Washington Post, the work has life-threatening consequences, some of which are unseen and manifest later.
“Deaths and injuries are common. And the mining activity exposes local communities to levels of toxic metals that appear to be linked to ailments that include breathing problems and birth defects, health officials say,” Frankel said.
In addition, as many as 100,000 laborers dig hundreds of feet underground with simple hand tools and few safety measures taken, according to Frankel.
I realize it is an ineffective plan to call people to boycott smartphones and computers, as such electronics have become somewhat of a necessity in both the academic realm and the workplace. However, I think government officials should hold a higher standard and implement substantial repercussions for companies who do not care for their workers and take advantage of youths who would work for anything so they might be able to procure food.
I believe instead of allowing corporations to ignore allegations and continue to profit from child labor, there should be a system of checks and balances forcing companies to be held accountable and have the threat of legal action. If guardians of children face imprisonment for insufficient care or abusive treatment of children, who says CEOs utilizing child labor should not, too?

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The price of cobalt is too high