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U.S. Tech Giants Sued Over Child Labor In Congo

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A federal class-action lawsuit has been filed against five U.S. tech giants accusing them of aiding and abetting child labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC.

The five companies named in the lawsuit are Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Dell Technologies, Microsoft, and Tesla.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. by the International Rights Advocates or IRA on behalf of 14 families from Congo, whose children were either killed in tunnel or wall collapses while mining cobalt, or were maimed in such accidents. The IRA is a U.S.-based human rights non-profit organization.

The lawsuit accuses the tech giants of aiding and abetting the use of young children to mine cobalt under extremely dangerous "stone age" conditions that led to their deaths, or resulted in serious, crippling injuries.

The lawsuit also alleges that the tech companies knowingly benefited from and provided substantial support to the "artisanal" mining system in the DRC.

The cobalt mines where the children allegedly worked were owned by mining companies Glencore and Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt.

The DRC has the world's largest deposits of cobalt, which is used in making rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in products made by all tech and electric car companies. The tech boom has caused an explosion in the demand for cobalt.

However, cobalt is mined in the DRC under extremely dangerous conditions by children, who are paid just one or two dollars a day to supply cobalt for the expensive gadgets made by some of the richest companies in the world.

According to the lawsuit, the children mining cobalt are being forced to work full-time in extremely dangerous mining jobs at the expense of their education and futures.

"Rather than step up to help these children with a negligible portion of their vast wealth and power, these companies do nothing but continue to benefit from cheap cobalt mined by kids robbed of their childhoods, their health, and for far too many, their lives," the IRA said.

According to the IRA, research teams are continuing to investigate other tech as well as auto companies and expect to add additional companies to the lawsuit.

The 14 Congolese families want the companies to compensate them for forced child labor, negligent supervision, and emotional distress.

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