African Child Labor Laws in Question After High Demand for Electric Vehicles

African Child Labor Laws in Question After High Demand for Electric Vehicles

Electric cars seem to be the next hot topic in the automotive industry, but who does it really affect? A report obtained by Forbes claimed Tesla’s plan for a new lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada would only be successful given the expensive materials, including cobalt, mined mostly in Congo. Sadly, in some cases those miners may be children.

Researchers are finding that major manufacturers aren’t taking child labor into consideration. According to Forbes, New York University and the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights found that cobalt mining in Congo is unsafe and are calling on companies to create safe ways, eliminating the practice and improving overall safety.

The report’s creator, Michael Posner, told Forbes these electric cars wouldn’t be possible without the amount of cobalt coming from the African nation. “About 80% of the world’s cobalt is in the Congo and 20% of that comes from these informal artisanal mines,” Posner said. “And although companies including Tesla claim they don’t source cobalt from operations using child labor, “10% of the world’s cobalt is coming out of these artisanal mines—it’s a huge amount of product.”

Posner, who worked with the Obama administration told Forbes the reason children are primarily used for these projects is because of their size. Artisanal mining sites generally consist of small tunnels and holes. “You have people coming onto these mine sites with their families, digging a hole in the ground, which is unstable, then sending their kids down the shaft, and shafts are collapsing,” Posner said.

According to Tesla’s 2021 Impact Report found on their website, the company has “zero tolerance” for child labor and has worked with a sourcing committee in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past to inspect the mining conditions. Congo isn’t the only country automotive companies look at for creating lithium batteries. Energywire News reported in October that the Biden administration stated batteries coming from China may be “tainted” by child labor, putting a hold on the push for electric vehicles.