A small part of the electric car supply chain: child labour

An investigation by the Financial Times reveals that cobalt mining in the Congo is anarchic and increasingly uses child labour.

Global demand for cobalt. a key ingredient in the production of EV batteries, will continue to rise as car makers switch to electric propulsion. OEMs are under pressure from legislators to make models all-electric by hard deadlines.

But the switch to “green” vehicles is not without its own environmental and ethical issues.

The Financial Times article reveals that children are being used to mine cobalt in the Congo. The extra demand has seen the rise of unregulated mining outside of state control. It is these mines that are using children. According to UNICEF, some of these children are forced to work in the mines.

The newspaper says that illegal mines account for 30 percent of output. The country as a whole accounts for more 70 percent of the global total output of cobalt, which is also used in batteries that power smartphones.

While no car company would want to be seen supporting child labour, the source of cobalt is very hard to trace once it enters the global supply chain, ending up in refineries in China. 

From there the cobalt will be added to the production of batteries, and then into your shiny new electric vehicle. 


Read more: UNICEF report on child labour in Congo.

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