Apple, Google, and more say they aren't responsible for child labor in DRC

Apple iPhone charging
Apple iPhone charging (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla are all accused of child labor.
  • Child labor is being used in mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The companies say they don't own the mines and use a third-party supplier, so a connection can't be confirmed.

Apple, Google, Microsoft Dell, and Tesla are all of the opinion that they are not responsible for the use of child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to reports. The companies say that while child labor is being used in mines used to help produce batteries, it isn't their responsibility because they don't own the mines and use a supplier instead.

As Law360 and AppleTerm report, the companies told a federal court that they "strongly condemn" the conditions in the mines but that they aren't responsible for them.

The tech giants told a D.C. federal court in a joint motion to dismiss Tuesday that although they "strongly condemn" the conditions described by more than a dozen Doe plaintiffs, the entities responsible for the labor violations are multiple degrees away from the companies on the global supply chain.Because the tech companies don't own the mines and there is no way to prove the cobalt in their products came from a certain mine, the suit must be dismissed, the tech companies argued. A multi-tier global supply chain makes it so that by the time they purchase the cobalt, it is mixed with materials from several mines, making it impossible to know for sure where it originated, according to the motion.

The case was brought by the parents of children who were killed during the mining of cobalt, while others were injured during their work. They're concerned about the "brutal exploitation" of the country and believe that there is an "indifference to a population of powerless, starving Congolese people".

It's unlikely that the response of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla will do anything to make them feel any less like that's the case.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.