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Apple leads way in tracing cobalt from Congo, Microsoft lags: Amnesty

From Reuters - November 14, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) - Apple is leading the way in tracing cobalt used in its electronics to ensure the metal has not been mined by children in Democratic Republic of Congo while Microsoft is lagging, Amnesty International said.

Microsoft disagreed with the pressure groups conclusions published on Wednesday.

Congo is by far the worlds biggest producer of cobalt, accounting for more than half of global supplies of the metal, a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.

Amnesty, however, says about a fifth of the countrys cobalt production is mined by hand by informal miners including children, often in dangerous conditions.

Cobalt has shot to prominence in recent months and its price skyrocketed due to expected growth in demand for electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Companies have a responsibility to prove they are not profiting from the misery of miners working in terrible conditions in the DRC, Amnesty official Seema Joshi said in a statement.

The group ranked 29 companies on how well they were tracking their sources of cobalt since Amnesty released a report in January 2016 warning about human rights abuses linked to cobalt mining in Congo.

Apple became the first company to publish the names of its cobalt suppliers ... but other electronics brands have made alarmingly little progress, the statement said.

Most cobalt is produced as a by-product of copper or nickel mining, but artisanal miners in southern Congo exploit deposits near the surface that are rich in cobalt.

The biggest buyer of ore from small-scale miners was Congo Dongfang Mining International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese mineral giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd, Amnesty found in its report last year.

Since then, Huayou Cobalt has taken a number of steps in line with international standards but gaps in information remain, Amnesty said.

In March this year, researchers from Amnesty and Congolese group African Resources Watch returned to informal mines and still found adults and children in unsafe conditions, the report said.

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